Letters From the Issue of Thursday, Jnauary 26, 2006

Electile Dysfunction

A fool and his votes are soon parted: What a fiasco has resulted from Arizona Republican officials trying to block even one of their own state senators from checking out what went wrong in an election! What is wrong with these fools? As Rick Barrs wrote (a href="/Issues/2006-01-12/news/barrs.html">"Rocking the Boat," January 12), what are they trying to hide? Or, more likely, who are they trying to protect?

From the start of this little war, I haven't understood what the problem is with letting an independent voting-machines expert look at the ballots, under whatever circumstances prove necessary. So what if New Times hired him, when the president of the Arizona Senate -- for whatever reason -- wouldn't?

What's a newspaper's involvement got to do with the price of eggs? What choice did Senator Jack Harper have but to seek outside funding, and what better organization to fund such a fact-finding mission than in-your-face New Times?

What kills me is that when that expert found out that there were serious problems in the Maricopa County Elections Department ("Ballot Box Breakdowns," John Dougherty, January 12), County Attorney Andy Thomas then calls on people to disregard that because somebody, in his weasel mind, misused a subpoena to get at the truth. Who cares if it resulted in a "scoop" for New Times!

I really don't think anybody follows Thomas' tortured logic, or much cares what he thinks. In fact, Thomas has made a fool of himself by getting involved in this. It makes me think that maybe his election might not have been on the up and up.

For all any of us know, all of the elections in the county are tainted, just like the one in District 20. I'm sorry, but when these voting officials say everything's fine, I don't much believe them.

[Elections department director Karen] Osborne, [County Recorder] Helen Purcell and our Secretary of State [Jan Brewer] sure do come across as a bunch of clowns in ugly dresses. As for the rest of the officials in this mess -- Thomas, [Arizona Senate President] Ken Bennett and so on -- they just seem either stupid or dishonest.
R. Thurman Aronson, via the Internet

Creeps and whores: Man, Rick Barrs sure nailed those Republican creeps, but good! And the whores in the local press! And that Democratic brown-noser Bill Brotherton! After reading what he wrote, how could anybody with an ounce of sense think those guys have any credibility?

But maybe they're just plain stupid. Andrew Thomas and his "lackey" [Barnett Lotstein] really are "legal ninnies." (Just wish Barrs would tell us what he really thinks!)

What I liked about your coverage of this issue is that you made it make sense, which is something neither these politicians nor their subordinates in the [rest of the press] have been able to do. You made it clear why it matters that this little election went wrong.

We have a bunch of dishonest creeps in our Legislature and in the County Attorney's Office. These Republicans fit right in with the Tom DeLays.
Jen Carpenter, Phoenix

Head games: So Rick Barrs proclaims me part of the "unholy alliance" with Maricopa County Attorney Andy Thomas based not on anything I've written about the spat over the legislative subpoena, but on a headline.

As I told Rick when I interviewed him on the phone for my news stories, the basis of my inquiry and of my stories revolved around the question of the propriety of Senator Jack Harper's issuing a subpoena so that an expert hired by an outside party -- in this case, New Times -- could have access to voting equipment.

Yes, there is a legitimate story on what went wrong with the District 20 race. And there certainly are questions about whether the Senate should have paid for a consultant.

But unless New Times believes the ends always justify the means, then I, as a veteran reporter who covers the Legislature, also get to ask the questions about the use of legislative subpoena to produce access to voting equipment for someone who does not work for, nor report to, the Senate.

I presume New Times would want me asking the same questions if the head of the Senate Judiciary Committee issued a subpoena of public records -- or maybe those of New Times -- so they could be turned over to an expert hired by the Arizona Republic and not beholden to the committee.
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services

Editor's note: Um, need we mention that headlines are based on the content of the articles they precede?

Irish eyes are on us: Thanks to Rick Barrs for his gutsy, tell-it-like-it-is editorial. It certainly appears that local media are colluding with Arizona politicians to avoid investigating that Maricopa County election. Then they criticize New Times for being willing to report actual news!

The eyes of the world are on you. I'm writing from Ireland, where we have our own voting-machine woes.

I couldn't care less which person is the winner of the Maricopa County election in question -- but I care a lot about the fairness of U.S. elections. I'm also a U.S. citizen, and I vote by absentee ballot. It is appalling to see Arizona politicians and election officials try to obstruct an investigation.

It is shocking that any official would try to prevent an independent investigator from looking at ballots. If the officials were doing their jobs, they'd have carried out this investigation long ago.

Is this what democracy in the USA is supposed to look like?

Next time, try hand-counting paper ballots in the polling place with plenty of public observers. If it's planned right, it'll cost far less, produce quicker results and be more accurate and reliable.
Catherine Ansbro, via the Internet

Paper pusher: It seems that all these fancy machines that we use on our elections are what's causing problems, like in the District 20 situation.

I've read that paper ballots are much more accurate. If we didn't find out that voting machines are bad from the presidential debacle in Florida, the public sure should be finding it out with this Phoenix situation.

Bring back paper ballots, and then maybe every man's (and woman's) vote will count again!
Art Markowitz, Riverside, California

An election soap opera: Though I couldn't get through all the expert's technical findings in John Dougherty's "Ballot Box Breakdowns," one thing came through loud and clear in his and Rick Barrs' articles:

A nationally renowned voting-machines expert came to town and found major problems in how everybody from Secretary of State Jan Brewer down to county elections czar Karen Osborne does business. That little election that expert Douglas Jones looked at was the mouse that roared!

It seems like everybody involved in elections around here showed his [or her] ass in this little soap opera. And, baby, those asses aren't pretty!
Jaime Ortiz, Phoenix

Make our day!: Aren't our elected officials supposed to make sense when they talk? I work in Andrew Thomas' office, and I can tell you that he doesn't make sense.

I was embarrassed to be employed in the office when he involved himself in this little District 20 drama. I was at a dinner party over the weekend, and my host was asking me what it's like to work for such a political hack. He was appalled that Thomas would enter into a fray like this, and thereby play into New Times' hands.

"They like to stir things up," my host said about you guys. "They have been taking guys like Andy Thomas to the cleaners for 30 years."

But if my boss had gone up against anybody and it was the right thing to do, I would applaud him, even if it weren't [politically sensible]. The one thing I had thought about Thomas, until this happened, was that he was a man of principle. But in this case, when clearly there's something wrong in a local election, why is he backing the stonewallers?

Thanks, New Times, for making him a laughingstock. I was joking that I haven't richly enjoyed this.
Name withheld by request

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