Gov. Ducey signs GOP bill to restrict your constitutional right to citizens initiatives and referendum

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The authoritarianism of the Arizona GOP and their corporate masters in the Arizona chambers of commerce know no bounds. Ever since voters successfully forced the legislature to withdraw an elections “reform” bill several years ago before voters could vote on a referendum to repeal the offending law, the Arizona GOP has since enacted every provision, and then some, by piecemeal fashion to restrict your constitutional right to citizens initiatives and referendum. “We decide what the law is, and you shall obey!”

In years past this would trigger a referendum to repeal this bill, but it is now so cumbersome and expensive to do, and the legislature has provided hyper-technical means to attack a referendum in court to prevent it from ever going to the ballot, that it is highly unlikely anyone will attempt a referendum. This is a de facto repeal of your constitutional rights. Our corporate masters have won.

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports that Gov. Ducey signs bill to make it more difficult for citizens to put measures on the ballot:

Gov. Doug Ducey is a stooge of the Koch Brothers, who fund him with Dark Money and instruct him on how to destroy life in Arizona.
Gov. Doug Ducey is a stooge of the Koch Brothers, who fund him with Dark Money and instruct him on how to destroy life in Arizona.

Gov. Doug Ducey has given his approval to yet another measure that will throw roadblocks in the path of Arizonans who seek to craft their own laws and constitutional amendments.

And, just for good measure, the new law also includes a procedural hurdle for would-be elected officials interested in challenging incumbents.

Existing statutes already require certain people who circulate petitions to register with the Secretary of State. That includes anyone who is not an Arizona resident and all paid circulators, regardless of where they are from.

What’s changed is that these people now must provide a residence address, telephone number and email address along with an affidavit, sworn in front of a notary public, that the circulator meets other requirements and has not been convicted of certain offenses. And that person cannot begin to collect signatures until he or she gets a registration number which must be put on any petition.

But the real key is that failure to do any of this means that any petitions collected by a circulator are not counted, regardless of whether the signatures are valid or not. Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said all this is designed to give foes of ballot measures technical grounds to knock a measure off the ballot rather than have to actually debate the merits.

“This is clearly and blatantly and expressly an effort to increase the ability of special interest groups to litigate these initiative measures on purely technical deficiencies,” he said during debate.

That point was brought home by the fact the legislation was backed by key business lobbying groups. Those are the same groups who have been pushing for changes in the law after they have been unable to stop voters from approving measures they do not like. Most recently that included boosting the state minimum wage from $8.05 an hour to $11 now, going to $12 next year.

Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, who sponsored the legislation, said the new requirements are necessary to protect the integrity of the electoral process.

Foes noted, however, that lawmakers are unwilling to impose the same restrictions on those who circulate their nominating petitions.

Leach conceded the point. But he said the difference is that laws approved by voters become permanent, especially with constitutional bans on legislators making changes. By contrast, he said, voters can get rid of lawmakers every two years.

This isn’t the first change in procedures that Ducey has approved.

Two years ago he signed a measure banning the practice of paying circulators based on the number of signatures they collect.

He also signed a law last year crafted by Arizona Public Service, the state’s largest electric utility, which essentially would have allowed it to ignore any voter-approved mandate to generate a certain percentage of energy from renewable sources. As it turned out, that measure failed at the ballot.

The latest actions follow the decision several years ago by the Republican-controlled Legislature to enact a measure designed to overrule a state Supreme Court decision that initiative petitions need be only in “substantial compliance” with election laws, a standard that allows for technical flaws. Now the law spells out that courts can void petition drives and keep measures from going to voters if there is not “strict compliance” with all laws.

Before sending the bill to Ducey, lawmakers added another provision requiring candidates to file a “statement of interest” with the proper election office before collecting signatures, spelling out what office the person wants and what is the political party affiliation. That puts incumbents on notice when there is a challenge.

The new law also contains a hammer: Any signatures gathered before that public statement are invalid.

But wait, there’s more! Gov. Ducey has also approved the slush fund for the GOP “voter fraud” fraud. Arizona AG gets $530,000 to investigate election fraud:

Mark Brnovich
Mark Brnovich

Arizona’s attorney general is hiring four people dedicated to investigating alleged voter fraud amid accusations of widespread malfeasance in elections leveled without evidence by President Donald Trump and other Republicans.

Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich isn’t setting out to find support for those claims, his spokesman said (riiight), but rather to give people confidence in the outcome of elections — even if that means his new investigators find little or no wrongdoing. The budget signed this week by Republican Gov. Doug Ducey gives Brnovich $530,000 for the project.

“Consider us the ‘MythBusters’ of election fraud claims and rumors,” said Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for Brnovich.

“If there is fraud, let’s investigate it, let’s prosecute it and work to eradicate it,” Anderson said. “If there’s not fraud, then let’s give the public the confidence they deserve in their elections.”

You really expect me to believe that Brnovich is going to ‘MythBuster’ the massive GOP cottage industry of “voter fraud” fraud? This myth is central to Donald Trump challenging the legitimacy of the 2020 election, as he threatened to do in 2016, and even after winning the Electoral College he cast doubt on his losing the popular vote by almost 3 million votes. It is also central to the Arizona GOP making excuses for its losses in 2018. “Don’t bother me with the facts, i know what I believe!

Democratic election officials are cautiously on board, but not everyone is convinced it’s a worthwhile endeavor.

“This is a circumstance where there’s not a clear plan to address a documented need, so we shouldn’t be spending that money,” said Alex Gulotta, Arizona director for All Voting is Local, which advocates for reduced barriers to voting. “It seems like a case of misguided priorities.”

Rumors have persisted, particularly on the right, that elections in Arizona are riddled with fraud, following an extremely close 2018 election that saw Democrats win a U.S. Senate seat and several statewide offices they haven’t controlled in decades. Trump and others have fanned the flames.

If a Republican loses a race it just has to be voter fraud, not that voters rejected a terrible Republican candidate.

Three days after the 2018 election, as Democrats picked up gains in the vote count in several close statewide races, Trump tweeted without evidence about “electoral corruption.”

“Just out — in Arizona, SIGNATURES DON’T MATCH,” Trump wrote. “Electoral corruption – Call for a new Election? We must protect our Democracy!”

Steven Richer, a Republican lawyer who is running for Maricopa County recorder, published a report in January alleging a variety of impropriety but noting it was unsubstantiated. The allegations have circulated on social media.

Recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, said he’d “provide any assistance we can” to Brnovich’s unit, adding it would be great to have a respected and objective unit to partner with in restoring confidence in election systems.

“If this unit will help maintain the integrity of Arizona’s elections and election systems, then I am all for it,” Fontes said in a statement.

Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who oversees elections statewide as the secretary of state, said it’s an opportunity to boost confidence in elections without diverting money from other election purposes.

“They said that they want to show that the system is not plagued by fraud,” Hobbs said. “So I’m taking that at face value.”

I’m telling you right now that taking this at face value is a big mistake. If Republicans hire someone to find fraud, they will find fraud, even if they have to invent it. This is going to be a witch hunt. Just look to the recent experience in the state of Texas. Texas went looking for voter fraud. Then everything fell apart.

The Texas Secretary of State’s top election officer in the state, David Whitley, had issued a bombshell press release calling into question the citizenship of 95,000 registered voters in Texas. Soon after, Democratic lawmakers and advocacy groups were raising serious questions about how many people on that list were actually noncitizens who are ineligible to vote.

But before those doubts emerged, Whitley, the top election officer in the state, had handed over information about those registered voters to the Texas attorney general, which has the jurisdiction to prosecute them for felony crimes.

So as Anchia sat at the end of his green, glass-topped conference table, he wanted to know: Did Whitley know for sure that any of the names on his list had committed crimes by voting as noncitizens?

“No,” Whitley answered, according to Anchia.

“And I said, ‘Well, isn’t it the protocol that you investigate and, if you find facts, you turn it over to the AG?”

“I do not have an answer for that,” Whitley responded, according to Anchia’s recollection of the Monday meeting.

By then, Whitley’s press release had already been signal-boosted by top Republican officials — including President Donald Trump — who slapped on unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud and illegal voter registration and pointed to it as proof that voter rolls needed to be purged. And county election officials across the state had gone to work parsing through the records of thousands of registered voters whose citizenship status the state said they should consider verifying. Some counties were even in the process of sending letters to voters ordering them to prove they were citizens.

Soon after, the citizenship review effort buckled, revealing itself as a ham-handed exercise that threatened to jeopardize the votes of thousands of legitimate voters across the state. The secretary of state’s office eventually walked back its initial findings after embarrassing errors in the data revealed that tens of thousands of the voters the state flagged were citizens. At least one lawsuit was filed to halt the review, and others were likely in the pipeline. And a week into the review, no evidence of large-scale voter fraud had emerged.

You should read this report from the Texas Tribune because this is the playbook for what is about to play out here in Arizona between now and next year’s election. You have been duly warned.




1 COMMENT

  1. Putin, Erdogen and Maduro would be proud of the Arizona Repubs efforts to create an authorian regime for themselves and their bosses. And they depend on voters blindly voting for odious legislators. YOU know who they are.

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