All Bark and No Bite

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The elections department's cover-up of voting-machine problems is continuing.

Elections department officials have made repeated statements to the media that the county's voting machines have been working fine. Yet County Recorder Purcell told Thomas' investigators that the elections department was very concerned about voting-machine problems that arose during the District 20 recount.

Purcell said to investigators on March 31 that two of the Elections Systems and Software optical scanners used during the primary and recount were removed from service before the general election. She also said the county was considering contracting with a new vendor to provide voting machines.

Based largely on Purcell's statements that the elections department was addressing the issue, Thomas "determined that there was not sufficient evidence of criminal conduct to justify commencing a formal criminal investigation," he said in a May 5 letter to the county Republican Committee.

A month later, the Arizona Republic quoted elections director Osborne as saying she had no problem with the voting machines: "We are going to stay with these machines. They are very solid, and they do what they are supposed to do."

Thomas was annoyed by Osborne's comments.

"This quote by Ms. Osborne directly contradicts your prior representations," Thomas wrote in a June 16 letter to Purcell.

Purcell fired back a June 24 letter assuring Thomas that the elections department was preparing to enter into a contract to upgrade the optical scanners with equipment designed to better detect marks on mail-in ballots.

Thomas returned the volley on June 30, once again berating Purcell for continuing to say there are no problems with the county's voting equipment, while at the same time telling Thomas that significant changes are in the works.

"This two-sided approach to these matters is troubling," Thomas wrote Purcell.

But Thomas was all bark and no bite.

When the chips were down, he decided it wasn't worth it politically to come down on Purcell's operation.

It's too bad that the county attorney has proved his critics right.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty