Look out, Legislature, you're being watched
Feb. 26, 2006
For one citizen, civic duty is a serious thing
In last year's legislative session, Bryan Ginter was a ninjalike mystery man who
would register positions and comments on hundreds of bills without ever being
seen. Lawmakers and staff members at first thought he was a practical joker,
until the retired Navy veteran e-mailed a senator and revealed himself to be an
ordinary guy with a computer and an extraordinary interest in legislative
policy. People who get paid to pay attention to issues at the Capitol don't
follow as many bills as Ginter, a 48-year-old computer tech and Mensa member
Ginter is back this session, following more than 100 bills that have struck his
fancy, usually online from one of his three work terminals at Chase Bank. His
interests range from the big headline grabbers, like court-ordered funding for
English-language learners, to small-potatoes technical changes that only the
wonkiest wonk would notice. He doesn't keep track, but said a senator once
estimated that about 80 percent of the bills Ginter champions end up on the
Ginter sat down for lunch with Republic political reporter Robbie Sherwood to
explain how this hobby/obsession/inspiring display of civic duty got started.
Ginter said he grew progressively more interested in state politics after
getting out of the Navy in 2000, but was getting few if any responses to his
e-mails and letters.
Question: What caused you to start following the Legislature so closely?
Answer: I'd e-mail lawmakers or I would send them letters asking about a
particular bill, or I'd send letters asking about particular issues and I
wouldn't get a response. Or if I did, it was a generic form letter. I didn't
feel like I was getting across my point of view. I did a little further research
and going on the state Legislature's Web site, they've got this "request to
Q: Were you taken aback when lawmakers questioned whether or not you were real?
A: Yeah, I was, because obviously somebody had to go down to the Capitol
computer kiosk and register, so I had to be a live person. And then obviously to
register positions as frequently as I did, I had to be a live body.
Q: That is a lot of work to put into a practical joke.
A: Exactly. So it piqued curiosity, and they found out I was real.
Q: Were you surprised to find out that more people aren't doing the same thing?
A: Oh yeah, to me it's about my civic duty. I've got time on the weekends to go
through these things. It doesn't take long, especially if you read through the
summary sheets. And to read the summery, to see the provisions on the bill, and
to make a decision, either yes, no, or neutral. To me it only takes a few
seconds. I feel like I'm a fairly intelligent guy, I can figure these things
out. So I think it's my duty to tell the representatives down here what I think.
Q: What kind of impression have you formed of the Legislature? How would you
A: A C-minus. Maybe a D-plus. It varies depending on the issue, but I think they
need to work together more. I have some concerns with the upcoming elections in
2006, who gets in there. I prefer to see a more balanced body, where you have
closer to an equal number of Democrats and Republicans and people are forced to
work as a team and get through what's best for the people of Arizona.
Q: Do you think you'll eventually run for office?
A: I've been asked that many times. The pay isn't enough. I wouldn't put it out
of the realm of possibility, maybe when I'm closer to retiring. But for now,
I'll just keep registering my opinion on bills, which is more than most people