GOP vote rigging scheme passes the Arizona House

Posted by AzblueMeanie:

Today is primary election day in a number of municipalities across Arizona, but a bill that has been flying under the radar and that has received no media attention until now would radically alter how these primary elections are conducted in the future. Howard Fischer mentions it only in passing in his Legislature briefs:

A bill approved Monday by the House could radically revamp how cities and towns conduct their elections.

Under
current law, the first vote, or primary election, usually narrows the
field to the top two vote-getters, who advance to a runoff.

Rep.
Justin Olson, R-Mesa, said problems arise when there are perhaps eight
candidates with a conservative point of view and just two who are
considered liberals. With voters entitled to cast ballots for only one,
Olson said that creates a "spoiler effect," where the conservatives
split the vote and the runoff in what might be a conservative community
deciding between the two liberals.

HB 2518 would permit cities to
alter their system so individuals could vote for as many – or as few –
candidates as they want
. Olson argued that would create a better chance
for candidates whose views more realistically reflect that of the
community.

He said the system would not work in Tucson, which has partisan primaries.

Monday's 31-26 vote sends the measure to the Senate.

Ranked choiceThe language of the bill approved by the House does not indicate that it is intended to be "ranked choice voting" or what is sometimes referred to as Instant-runoff voting, in which voters rank the candidates in order of preference rather than simply selecting a single candidate. Instant-runoff is employed by only a handful of jurisdictions in the United States, including Portland, Maine; San Francisco, California; Oakland, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Saint Paul, Minnesota (all "liberal" municipalities).

The language of the House bill violates the "one person, one vote" standard of Baker v. Carr, 369 U.S. 186 (1962) by giving voters random mutiple votes. It is a vote rigging scheme, pure and simple. Here are the operative provisions of the bill:

16-559. City and town approval voting; requirements

A. Notwithstanding any other statute, a city or town in this state may by ordinance establish and use a system of approval voting in that city's or town's primary or first election. An approval voting system shall provide for the following:

1. The voter in the primary or first election shall be permitted to vote for as many candidates for a single office as the voter chooses to approve.

2. The two candidates who receive the highest and second highest number of votes in the primary or first election shall advance to the general or runoff election for that city or town without regard to whether any one candidate has received a majority of the votes cast for that office.

3. The ballot and all other voting materials shall clearly indicate that the voter may vote for as many candidates in that election as the voter chooses, and that the candidates who receive the two highest number of votes shall advance to the general or runoff election.

B. Except as otherwise provided in this article, city and town approval voting elections shall be conducted in accordance with the provisions of article 8 of this chapter.

The purpose and intent of this GOP vote rigging scheme is just as Rep. Olson describes it — to prevent a Democratic candidate from advancing in a primary in a Republican voter registration edge district. He accomplishes this not by "ranked choice voting," but by giving voters random multiple votes. The top two winners would be decided by the number of randomly cast mutiple votes.

For example, let's say there are 30,000 registered voters. And let's say voter turnout in the primary is exceptional for Arizona, with a 20% turnout — 6,000 voters go to the polls. Using Rep. Olson's example with eight Republican and two Democratic candidates and voters casting random mutiples of votes, the total number of votes cast will far exceed the number of registered voters. I cannot see how this can possibly pass constitutional muster under Baker v. Carr, nor receive Department of Justice preclearance.

This bill should be defeated or vetoed by the governor. it will be litigated if it is enacted.

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