BLASTED BY BREWERWhen it comes to election-security issues, it seems that Pima County supervisors are either damned by local activists if they don't, or damned by Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer if they do.
In a letter sent on June 5 to Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckelberry, Brewer responded to a 133-page report Huckelberry issued back in April on proposed election-security changes. In a press release accompanying the letter, Brewer describes her communication to Pima County as "a terse response letter."
Huckelberry describes Brewer's 11-page letter as "self-serving."
Huckelberry says that since he received the letter, he's been trying to figure out whether he and Brewer are "living on the same planet." He's particularly perplexed by the timing of the letter--arriving just after Judge Michael Miller's ruling on May 23 requiring that the county release election database files going back to 1998. The decision ended a year-long public-records lawsuit that oddly put a Democrat-dominated county government against its own political party.
Here's some of Brewer's snit:
• She paddles the supes for allowing the judge-ordered release of the first set of election database files and says she told the county she would consider intervening, because the case could jeopardize election security throughout the state.
• Brewer says any Pima County election-security improvements set a precedent that may force other counties in the state to do the same thing, because they'll create a standard.
• Brewer says the county has no choice but to accommodate disabled voters by using touch-screen machines that leave an unreliable paper trail. (Huckelberry wants to get rid of them, but he agrees that for now, they have to stay.)
• Brewer doesn't like the county's request to change parts of the secretary of state's election-procedures manual to better define whether database files are subject to public-records laws.
• A county proposal to scan and post ballots on the Internet isn't going to happen under Brewer's watch. First, it's against the law, she says, but it's also an unwarranted accommodation for a tiny number of people worried about election security. (Huckelberry says he's still interested, but recognizes it isn't going to work this time around)
• Brewer claims the county's plan to delay the tabulation of early votes until Election Day--to accommodate political-party observer schedules--will needlessly slow statewide election results.
• Brewer says a plan to do background checks on all poll workers is unnecessary and costly, but she does like the county's idea of increasing the number of poll workers--by allowing 16- and 17-year-old kids to work the polls. Finally, a compliment!
• Background checks on election observers could discourage good people from volunteering, although Brewer does agree that some people should not be near ballots.
• She likes the fact that Pima County will no longer provide party officials with blank ballots to conduct their own tests on county equipment, especially since she's the one who told them to stop doing that.
• She also likes a proposal to contract with two independent testing laboratories to verify all electronic election systems--and even thinks Pima County could test this process.
Huckelberry says he plans to address Brewer's views in a report for the supes' June 17 meeting. He adds that he's confident that the county can move forward with certain pieces of his original election-security plan.
The fact that Brewer's letter was sent to media outlets with a press release is troubling to Huckelberry.
"It all seemed a little self-serving," he says. "It seems like she is turning this into a political game, but this isn't a game. This is for real."
Election-integrity activists Jim March and John Brakey released a 21-page response to Brewer's letter, going through her comments point by point. For the most part, the activists stand by Pima County--although they continue to wait for the release of the final database files.
"If Jan Brewer's highest priority was security and reliability of elections, she wouldn't have exposed herself to conflict-of-interest criticism by accepting co-chair position of the Bush re-election campaign in 2004," March and Brakey write.
Visit blog.tucsonweekly.com to see Brewer's letter, as well as March and Brakey's response.
WHAT'S THE RUSH?Unless something really unexpected happened between our deadline and the delivery of this edition, this week is turning out to be a bust at the Arizona Legislature.
The lawmakers we talked to told us that a good chunk of Monday was focused on whether lawmakers should just give up on the week, given that many of them would want to head up to Snowflake to pay their respects to the late Sen. Jake Flake, who died over the weekend.
So if you're expecting news about how they're going to patch that $2.2 billion hole in the budget, there's not much we can tell you, except that they've now got less than three weeks to figure it out.
Sure, last year, the state budget came together in late June. But at least lawmakers had a spending blueprint to work from in the form of a Senate budget that was tweaked to satisfy the ego of House Republicans who needed a bone tossed their way.
This year, lawmakers have been working in smaller groups to put together different pieces of the budget. We're reminded of the old saying: A camel is a horse built by committee. We're guessing there are a lot of humps in the spending plans being tossed around at this point.
REJECTED!It's hard enough for a Democrat to get a bill passed at the Legislature. But Rep. David Bradley of central Tucson managed to get a piece of legislation all the way to governor's desk--only to have Democratic Gov. Janet Napolitano veto it.
"It was a little disheartening," Bradley says. "To get a Democratic bill out is a minor miracle to begin with."
Bradley's bill was a follow-up to a bill that passed--and was signed by Napolitano--that required insurance companies to cover autism treatment.
Given that the new law will require more behavioral analysts to work with the kids who now have coverage, Bradley sought to create a licensing program for them. As the bill got amended in the process, it also created an oversight board.
That was a deal-breaker for Napolitano, who has called for the state to have fewer oversight boards.
Bradley says he's hopeful that he can resurrect the bill before the end of the session.
"It's never over until it's over," he says. And judging from the pace of the budget negotiations, it may never be over.
SCRAMBLEWATCH '08: BREAKING UP IS HARD TO DOJohn Kromko's decision to take on state Reps. Phil Lopes and Olivia Cajero-Bedford in the Legislative District 27 Democratic primary means the wily ol' lawmaker has had to split with the Pima County Green Party.
Last year, when he flirted with a mayoral run on the Green ticket, Kromko changed his party registration, much to the delight of Green Party activists.
Dave Ewoldt, a member of the Greens' steering committee who was running Dave Croteau's mayoral campaign, sent out a dispatch in which he quoted himself as saying: "Kromko's decision to go Green provides a shining example not just for other Democrats, but for Republicans and independents as well."
But as special as the moment was for Ewoldt, it appears to have been nothing but a fling to Kromko, who has apparently realized the downside of running as a Green: You don't win elections.