Activists upstage Jan Brewer at re-election announcement

Casey Newton The Arizona Republic Jan. 6, 2006 12:00 AM

Secretary of State Jan Brewer announced her bid for re-election Thursday over the shouts of sign-waving protesters who said the voting machines Brewer favors are unreliable.

What had been planned as a simple announcement on the Capitol lawn quickly turned chaotic, as a handful of agitators managed to upstage the first-term Republican and her legion of supporters with criticism of the state's use of Diebold Election Systems machines.

Chanting "all we want is every vote to count," the protesters succeeded in delaying the press conference for 15 minutes. Arizona Department of Public Safety officers eventually cleared them from the lawn, but they continued shouting throughout the event.

Struggling to make herself heard over the din, Brewer said her first term had been marked by significant election reforms.

She touted the elimination of punch-card voting systems and the coming implementation of Proposition 200's strict voter identification requirements as among her proudest accomplishments.

"I have a proven record of delivering on my commitments," Brewer said.

Brewer also announced several new election-reform initiatives she plans to pursue in the coming year.

Most prominently, Brewer will ask the Legislature to hold primary elections four weeks earlier to provide extra time for recounts in the event of a dispute. She also is calling for legislation to dictate a secure way to store and handle ballots after elections.

A few feet away, protesters said the Diebold systems purchased for the 2004 elections were subject to tampering.

"We need a return to paper ballots that are hand-counted and verifiable," said Mike Shelby, a protester from Phoenix. "This is not a partisan issue. This is a civic issue."

Brewer dismissed the protesters as "anarchists" and "conspiracy theorists," and said she had implemented several reforms to improve the integrity of the voting system.

"I have instituted procedures and rules and security measures that in effect, if followed, will not allow any miscounting of votes," she said. "I have all the confidence in the world that that there will be no problems in 2006."

With her filing, Brewer became the first state official to qualify for funding through the Citizens Clean Elections Commission.

She submitted 3,262 $5 contributions, well over the 2,625 required to qualify for public financing.

Brewer is likely to face former Phoenix Mayor Skip Rimsza in the Republican primary in September.

Rimsza filed his candidacy on Tuesday. He said he would not run as a Clean Elections candidate, financing much of his campaign with his own money.

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