Tea-Publicans in the Arizona Lege are trying to limit voters’ rights

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Think back to November 2012 and what were the problems with the election: voter lists from the county recorders were inaccurate, voters did not know where to go due to precinct consolidation into new "voting areas," and many voters were listed as an early voter but wanted to vote in person, all of which contributed to a large number of provisional ballots being cast. This slowed the counting of the vote.

A large number of voters dropped off their "early" ballots on election day — as is their lawful right to do so — which also contributed to the slow counting of the vote.

And then there was the scandal of "dark money" independent expenditure committees corrupting the political process with attack ads funded by contributors who do not have to disclose their identity or the amount of their political contributions.

So are any of these problems being addressed by the Arizona legislature? Hell no!

Tea-Publicans in the Arizona Lege are instead focused on limiting Arizonans' constitutional rights to citizens initiatives and recall elections, systematically killing off Citizens Clean Elections through unlawful means, making it easier for themselves to run for office while serving in office, and easier for themselves to collect barrels full of money to fend off the independent expenditure committees rather than doing something about this political corruption.

Arizonans should be outraged that the Tea-Publicans in the Arizona Lege are trying to limit voters' rights.

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports Senate passes bills to change recall, initiative laws:

Sen. Michele Reagan’s SB 1262 passed the
Senate on a party line vote, and would place strict contribution limits
to recall elections that Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said would make
it virtually impossible for any public official to be recalled. The
measure was approved 16-12.

The bill clarifies language in the state’s recall statutes that
caused confusion during the 2011 recall of Sen. Russell Pearce and
clarifies that a recall campaign is itself a brand new campaign, and
contribution limits are reset at the start of the campaign.

And SB 1263, also sponsored by Reagan, R-Scottsdale, would require
paid petition circulators to register with the Secretary of State in
order for the signatures they collect for ballot initiatives to be
considered valid. The registration process for paid circulators would
ensure the validity of the circulator and help avoid signatures
collected being tossed out if found to be unlawfully circulated,
proponents argue. The Senate passed the bill on an 18-10 vote.

Like the other reform-minded election bills Reagan’s sponsored that
have already cleared the Senate, Gallardo claims the bills would be a
detriment to voter participation – in the case of limiting campaign
contributions to recall efforts, a lack of adequate funding be the doom
of efforts to collect the hundreds of thousands of signatures needed to
spark a recall vote.

* * *

The vote on the Senate floor came hours
after Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Justice Department detailing
their concerns with two more election bills – [SB 1003] that would allow
voters to be purged from the permanent early voting list and [SB 1261]
that would prohibit certain people from dropping off another person’s
ballot.

The letter, signed by Gallardo, Senate Minority Leader Leah Landrum
Taylor and Sen. Jack Jackson, D-Window Rock, states that SB 1261 would
place “burdensome limitations on early and mail-in voting.”

The Arizona Republic adds, Arizona minority senators raise alarm on elections-linked bills:

All three are Democrats, and all three said the bills would have a “devastating” impact on minority voting.

Gallardo said the legislation is a great example of why Arizona still
needs to be under the protection of the federal Voting Rights Act,
which was passed to protect minority voting rights and just last week
was the topic of a U.S. Supreme Court case.

“The potential effect of these bills is alarming, and the genesis of these bills is equally concerning,” the senators wrote.

None of the groups that have worked to increase minority voting was
invited to the meetings where the bill language was crafted, Gallardo
said. Although the bills have the backing of the state’s 15 county
elections officials, Gallardo said, those officials need to look outside
their offices and consider the effect on voters.

* * *

Democratic Party officials said it’s common for voters to drop off
their ballots at party headquarters, because they are wary of the U.S.
Postal Service. Last November, 600 to 700 voters did so, party spokesman
Frank Camacho said.

The state Republican Party said it doesn’t get such requests, but
Maricopa County GOP Chairman A.J. LaFaro said it has happened on the
county level. However, he said, party officials support SB 1003 and
would adjust.

The senators also complained about another bill that would have
required anyone who received an early ballot to return it a week before
election day. That measure, SB 1274, was held in the Senate Elections
Committee and has not advanced. The other two bills are awaiting action
in the House.

Then there is the attempt to kill the voter-initiated Citizens Clean Elections while at the same time allowing traditionally funded candidates to collect barrels full of money. Contribution limit overhaul heads to Senate:

A House bill that seeks to raise limits
on campaign contributions could discourage candidates from using
Arizona’s Clean Elections system, election officials warned.

The measure, HB 2593, would dramatically increase the amount
individuals and political action committees can contribute to candidates
to $2,000 from the current $440. Super PACs would be allowed to
contribute as much as $4,000.

Technically, the bill would change the law to allow contributions of
$2,500 for PACs and individuals and $5,000 for Super PACs. However,
another provision elsewhere in Arizona law sets the actual limits at 80
percent of the dollar amounts laid out in statute.

* * *

The legislation, which was approved by the
House on Feb. 28 on a 32-23 vote and is now being taken up by the
Senate, would also eliminate aggregate contribution limits now applied
to individual donors and PACs.

* * *

Secretary of State Ken Bennett agrees that
Arizona’s contribution limits are far too low, but he echoed a concern
raised by CCEC Executive Director Todd Lang – lawmakers would have to
consider raising Clean Elections funding to keep publicly funded
candidates within striking distance of their opponents, Bennett said.

“Traditional candidates would have a huge advantage under this
system,” Lang told the Judiciary Committee. “And you have a huge Prop.
105 problem. It completely undermines the purpose of the (Clean
Elections) Act and it undermines the opportunity for people to
participate in the system.”

Critics argue that, when voters approved
the Voter Protection Act in 1998, known in legislative parlance as
“Prop. 105,” they made it clear that they wanted to reduce private
campaign contributions. Because the law that trims the campaign
contribution limits 80 percent of what is in statute was part of the
voter-approved Clean Elections Act, critics say any attempt to increase
the limits without addressing the Clean Elections system violates the
spirit of what voters wanted.

Bennett warned that lawmakers shouldn’t use this bill as an attack on Clean Elections.

“If it’s the intent or effect of this, to destroy Clean Elections, I
think you’re ultimately going to fail,” Bennett said. “The people of
Arizona put Clean Elections in place, and only the people of Arizona
should be able to get rid of it.”

A separate measure presents a Hobson's choice to voters to defund Citizens Clean Elections: House Concurrent Resolution 2026,
sponsored by Rep. Paul Boyer, R-Phoenix, would ask voters in
November 2014 to direct all future Clean Elections money to the K-12
schools. The House Judiciary Committee has approved it by a 5-3 party-line vote.

Finally, there is the attempt to finish off the voter-initiated "resign to run" law that was undermined a few years ago by an incorrectly decided court decision in the case of John Huppenthal, which has become known as the "Huppenthal rule": candidates can file an exploratory committee and collect money  and signatures before "oficially" declaring their candidacy. Now the Arizona Lege wants to effectively nullify what remains of the voter-initiated "resign to run law." Arizona House approves changes to “Resign to Run” law:

Current law requires officials not in the
last year of their term to resign their seat once they make a formal
announcement that they’re running or they file official paperwork with
the Secretary of State. Republican Rep. John Kavanagh’s bill will end
what he calls the “charade” of politicians essentially lying to the
public about only exploring a run for another office when everyone knows
they’re running.

Kavanagh’s bill would redefine official candidacy to only include the formal paperwork filing.

The House approved the bill on a 40-19 vote Monday afternoon. It now goes to the Senate for action.

The will of the voters on "resign to run" and Citizens Clean Elections be damned.

As for the "dark money" independent expenditure committees corrupting our political process, Sen. Michelle Reagan (R-Scottsdale), who chairs the new Senate Elections Committee created for her from which to run for Secretary of State in 2014, has thrown up her hands and said that she cannot find a way around Citizens United to require disclosure of contributors.

Read the damn opinion lady! The Supreme Court said there could not be limitations on contributions, but fully endorsed disclosure requirements. This is a dodge by Reagan to avoid subjecting GOP political operatives in the "Kochtopus" network of political organizations operating in the state of Maricopa from being exposed to public scrutiny — and potentially to prosecutiion (money laundering charges in California).

If the Arizona legislature was serious about rejecting the corrupting influence of Citizens United, it would follow the lead of the state of Montana (and other states) and submit a referendum to the voters of this state to overturn the decision in Citizens United. Montana Senate advances resolution opposing Citizens United:

The Senate Judiciary Committee approved Senate Joint Resolution 19 
which encourages Montana’s congressional delegation to work to overturn
the Citizen’s United decision and establish that corporations, unions
and associations are not human beings with constitutional rights.

The action comes following voter approval last fall of
Initiative-166. That ballot measure was the result of the U.S. Supreme
Court’s Citizens United ruling that freed corporations to spend
unlimited money on elections.

Of course, this would be strenuously opposed by the lawyers/lobbyists from the Kochtopus-funded Goldwater Institute, which successfully convinced our Tea-Publican controled legislature to overturn Arizona's laws banning corporate campaign contributions immediately after Citizens United, rather than to take a stand against the decision.

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