Arizona Secretary of State Jan Brewer on Thursday defended the decision to purchase touch-screen voting equipment from the Diebold Corp.
Her comments came during and after what was supposed to be a routine announcement by the Glendale Republican who wants another four years in office. But a small group of protesters, apparently mobilized by comments made Thursday morning about Diebold by a Phoenix radio talk show host, showed up with hand-made signs decrying the purchase.
A Brewer campaign worker had to call Capitol police to have the protesters moved back so Brewer could give her speech — a speech which boasted of the state getting rid of the last punch card ballots as part of her accomplishments since being elected in 2002. The Diebold contract was never mentioned.
"I don’t think there is a problem with the Diebold equipment,’’ Brewer said. She said a committee investigated the bids and the machines passed guidelines.
Most Arizona counties already have bought and used Diebold machines for optical scanning of ballots.
Federal law required states to purchase machines for their counties which are accessible to the disabled. That led to an award Friday to buy touch-screen machines from Diebold.
Last year Leon County, Fla., got rid of its Diebold scanners after it was shown they can be electronically entered to alter election results without a trace.
One of the protesters Thursday was Ernest Hancock, a long-time Libertarian Party activist who hopes to be his party’s nominee for Brewer’s office. He complained that the touch screens are flawed because they leave no paper trail to be counted if there are questions about whether a machine accurately recorded the votes.
Arizona elections direction Joe Kanefield, who works for Brewer, said, the machines ordered by the state do produce a paper receipt which is kept by election officials.