If Arizona Republicans were so confident their views and policies had the blessings of the majority of the people, then they would not be resorting to measures designed to hinder those citizen’s right to vote.
They should also not be afraid to hear from citizens requesting to speak out against these measures at State Senate and House Committee Hearings.
Arizona Legislative District (LD) 16 State Representative Kelly Townsend, following LD 12 State Senator Eddie Farnsworth’s example, decided to halt citizen comment on a series of proposed reactionary voter suppression measures before the Elections Committee she chairs on Tuesday, February 18, 2020.
As LD 26 Representative and Minority Whip Athena Salman showed, via Twitter, Republicans had Capitol Police on standby before the hearing to remove anyone if it was decided to cancel public comment.
Townsend, according to reporting and commentary by AZ Centrals Andrew Oxford, Laurie Roberts, and EJ Montini, tried to further “control” the situation by placing controversial House Bill (HB) 2304, a measure designed to make voters prove they are citizens at the voting booth and denying some a translator device to read the ballots, at the end of the meeting agenda.
Townsend claims this measure is designed to reduce voter fraud.
News Flash: According to the conservative Heritage Foundation, there have only been 20 cases of voter fraud in Arizona since 2008.
That is about three cases every election year.
Eighty percent of those twenty reported fraud incidents were for duplicate voting.
There were no cases where illegal immigrants tried to vote.
Townsend’s rationale for HB 2304 is bull fecal matter.
Readers need to remember that Republicans claims about preventing voter fraud are really coded for finding ways to suppress voter turnout
Back to the hearing.
Townsend then tried to control what the second (and as it turned out the last speaker) Randy Perez of Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA) could say on the record before the committee.
When LD 27 Democratic Representative Diego Rodriguez attempted to raise a point of order on this point, Townsend wanted to pause. Then Perez tried to interrupt and Townsend ended public testimony by calling a recess.
Confusion and chaos then followed.
Partially captured on video (click here,) people can see after the recess was declared Perez trying to make his case while Townsend walked out of the hearing room to get security to remove him.
Townsend can be heard saying “You disrespected the chair” and “You need to leave” while Perez wanted to stay and be allowed to finish his point.
It is a sad situation when a public servant is scared to hear from the people she is elected to serve.
It is equally troubling that she felt the need to have the police in position before the hearing started.
It is downright ludicrous to file two ethics complaints against Democratic members of the committee (Rodriquez for leaving during a vote and Salman for “talking over the chairwoman.”)
Ethics complaints have generally been reserved recently for legislators accused of sexual harassment, racism, child sex abuse, and violating the state constitution.
None of that obviously happened here.
Murphy Bannerman, the spokesperson for the Arizona Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (ADLCC) commented that:
“Townsend’s ethics complaint is simply petty. Democrats were standing up for Democracy, which means having the maturity to listen to opposing viewpoints without shutting down debate. The Republican members on the committee clearly lack that ability and should be ashamed of their behavior.”
Sharon Stinard, the Democratic chair of Legislative District 16 wrote:
“I would say that as a voter and citizen of Arizona I expect better from our elected representatives.”
The people have a right to be heard and the public servants they elect to serve them have the responsibility to make sure that happens in a professional and impartial process.
The citizens of Arizona did not get that from House Elections Committee Chairperson Townsend this week.
As Chairperson Stinard said, the people deserve better.