The Pursuit of Justice in a Suspicious Election
Fatally Flawed is a true detective story about a two billion dollar bond transportation measure passed under suspicious circumstances in Pima County, Arizona.
In 'Fatally Flawed', the camera captures the story ahead of the news. The film is not only real-time cinema verite, but a moving document of triumph and heartache in the face of monolithic government opposition.
It is the story of a group of intrepid citizens who demand answers to the question: 'When big money is involved, do our votes really count?
When tell-tale evidence of insider election rigging was uncovered by election observers, Attorney Bill Risner led a team of individuals with the right mix of unusual skills, and spent the next three years doggedly pursuing the truth. Their actions led to a lawsuit that focused on the public's right to examine ballot evidence in a state that offers no viable means to challenge a fixed election. The result of that lawsuit was the largest release of elections database files in US history.
The Elections Division in Pima County, Arizona has operated for years without any kind of public scrutiny or oversight. New demands for transparency and disclosure prompted drastic measures by the county involving the control and removal of evidence. In the days prior to this demand for transparency, tampering of the database files appeared to be absent any concern for outside searches into the databases. Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard hired an outside organization called iBeta to analyze the RTA database log entries. As the iBeta report put it:
'The basis of the investigation is that there are log entries that point to tampering - but it is far easier to remove evidence of tampering from the logs than to actually tamper with the vote totals in the Microsoft Access database that the GEMS software uses. So it does not follow that someone with the knowledge to manipulate the GEMS data would neglect to alter the log file to remove the evidence of the manipulation.'
Election Defense Alliance investigator John Brakey and Jim March of Blackbox Voting learned first-hand of attempts by the Pima Elections Division to hide, alter and suppress elections evidence. The Pima Elections Division electronically manipulated existing database files, lost evidence containing an 'untainted' version of these files and illegally gained possession of the files during the legal process.
The film allows you watch events as they unfold through the eyes of seasoned lawyer and activist Bill Risner. As the story develops, it becomes evident that what initially appeared to be a public mandate to expand the city's roads was a likely case of election fraud. At every step of the way, citizens seeking answers are met with resistance from election facilitators, local politicians and even the state's own attorney general. Persistent unanswered questions generated by the lawsuit and new evidence of wrongdoing on the part of elections division personnel led to an equally suspicious investigation by the Arizona attorney general. This investigation culminated in a recount conducted under conditions that made meaningful public oversight impossible.
Unique to this film is a look at the unsettling relationships that seem to exist between the various branches of state government unified in their goal to evade justice. Elected officials charged with oversight of the elections division refused to look into the problems with the county's elections. Their refusal to take charge resulted in a lawsuit by the Pima County Democratic party for the release of database records. The judicial system ruled in favor of the plaintiffs but, without explanation, singled out the transportation election to remain sealed until both parties came to an agreement about the consequences of releasing the data. After the data was finally released and events consistent with tampering were discovered, the judicial system refused to provide any relief even with the assumption that the transportation election was rigged.
On the executive level, the Arizona Attorney General collaborated with the suspects by helping to generate a report that would exonerate the Pima Elections Division. Attorney General Terry Goddard had a unique aversion to examining the ballots, even when experts from across the country suggested that the 'answer is in the ballots'. Attorney Bill Risner had to publicly inform Attorney General Terry Goddard of what his office was legally capable of doing with the ballots based on a white-collar criminal investigation. From the moment Bill Risner made a formal complaint to the attorney general about the evidence of election fraud found during the court case, the attorney general's office never contacted Bill Risner or his staff to find out what Bill and his team discovered. Once enough public pressure convinced Attorney General Terry Goddard to conduct a recount in the context of a criminal investigation, he took the ballots out of the county with a secret court order and with no oversight of the ballots' chain of custody. As Jim March puts it, "It's a third world standard of justice. Not first world."
In a heated confrontation with county supervisors, investigator John Brakey says: "This is not about just Pima County. It's about our country." The problems with the local elections division that are exposed in this film are taking place throughout America. Fatally Flawed is a story about citizens fighting to regain the integrity of elections who share the ultimate goal of election transparency.