Primary races for Secretary of State – What I expect to hear from the candidates

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Democrats in Arizona now have a primary race for Secretary of State — the chief elections officer in Arizona. Sen. Leah Landrum Taylor (LD 16) is joined by former Attorney General Terry Goddard as of Monday. Democrat Goddard to run for secretary of state.

On the Republican side we have the co-author of the GOP Voter Supression Act, HB 2305, Sen. Michele Reagan (subject to a "citizens veto" referendum on the 2014 ballot), Rep. Justin Pierce, former state Sen. Jack Harper, and self-funded millionaire Wil Cardon.

So let me lay down some markers of what I expect to hear from the candidates in the way of policy proposals for election law in Arizona.

I have been arguing for some time in favor of the "universal voter registration" proposals from the Brennan Center for Justice. Voter Registration Modernization | Brennan Center for Justice.

In a universal voter registration system, it would be the government's obligation to ensure that every eligible citizen was registered to vote. Individual citizens could opt out if they wished, but the registration process itself would no longer serve as a barrier to the right to vote.

Here are some of the important ways that federal policy can and should encourage the states to improve on the current voter registration system:

1. Mandate that the states put systems in place that would phase in universal voter registration, while preserving the states' ability to experiment with different systems.

2. Require states to immediately implement permanent registration, so that voters wouldn't have to re-register if they moved within a state.

3. Require states to implement Election Day registration, as a fail-safe mechanism for eligible voters missing from the voter rolls for any reason.

4. Provide the federal funding that states would need to ensure that every eligible voter is registered.

In 2013, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown came within one vote in the state senate of passage of House Bill 3521, a universal voter registation bill, when a Democratic senator balked at voting for the bill. Secretary Brown promises to bring this bill back again in 2014.

Permanent voter registration that is both portable and updatable on election day eliminates the need to re-register to vote every time a voter moves, and eliminates the problem with provisional ballots that require the voter to verify their address at a later date for their ballot to be counted. It maximizes voter participation and ensures that every vote is counted. Embrace the 21st Century!

Oregon and Washington are the only so-called universal vote-by-mail states, conducting elections entirely by post. Arizona should at least be discussing moving to a universal vote-by-mail system, considering that approximately 70% of all ballots in Arizona are already cast by mail. There would be ballot centers on election day where voters can drop off their ballots. This saves money and eliminates precinct errors by poorly trained poll workers. it also eliminates the opportunity for voter suppression at the polls (yes it still happens). The delay in getting final election results is no worse than what we expereinced here in Arizona in 2012 under our current election system. Do you want it fast or accurate? The convenience of the media should not be of any concern.

I have posted extensively about "dark money" organizations operating in Arizona, in particular the network of "Kochtopus" organizations operating out of the hub of Maricopa County. Sen. Michele Reagan would not even allow a campaign finance disclosure bill by Sen. Steve Farley (D-Tucson) to be heard this past session. Now that she is running for Secretary of State she is promising to champion her own campaign finance disclosure bill in the next session which I anticipate will be watered-down substantially because the Arizona GOP is a wholly owned subsidiary of the "Kochtopus," and Reagan does not want to cross swords with the "money=free speech" lawyers/lobbyists for the plutocracy at the Goldwater Institute. Sen. Farley has refiled his bill, but once again, Sen. Reagan will decide whether it gets heard.

What Arizona really needs is to follow the example set by the state of California by enacting its model legislation that established the state's Fair Political Practices Commission. This independent watchdog agency is not controlled by any partisan political office, like the Secretary of State or Attorney General in Arizona. This is one reason why there has been no prosecutions of GOP dark money organizations operating in Arizona. We need an independent watchdog agency that has investigative and prosecutorial powers to pursue these dark money organizations.

Secretary of State candidates must reject the "money=free speech" mantra of the Goldwater Institute. The voters have a right to know who is funding political campaigns and political organizations. This notion that disclosure of campaign contributors has a 'chilling effect" on the free speech of millionaires and billionaires who want to hide in the shadows is complete bullshit. There should be full transparency and instantaneous disclosure of campaign contributions when they are made. These contributions must be traceable to the original contributor if funneled through political organizations. This will require substantial changes to Arizona law, which is among the weakest in the nation. "Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants" as Justice Brandeis once said.

The next Arizona Secretary of State must support the renewal of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as amended to satisfy the conservative activist U.S. Supreme Court Justices who gutted perhaps the single most important piece of civil rights legislation in U.S. history.  What the "Felonius Five" did is a national disgrace and must be remedied.

The next Arizona Secretary of State must support a constitutional amendment to both the U.S. Constitution and the Arizona Constitution to reverse the U.S. Supreme Court decisions from Buckley v. Valeo that held "money=speech" to Citizens United v. FEC that held corporations are people. Representative legislative bodies must have the power to regulate campaign financing and expenditures in the public interest, including the establishment of publicly financed campaigns. An no, corporations are not people.

A pet peeve of mine — the next Arizona Secretary of State should support legislation that prohibits the Secretary of State — Arizona's chief elections officer — from serving as the state campaign chair to any campaign (in particular presidential campaigns). This has always been a clear conflict of interest and only serves to undermine public confidence in elections. This cannot be voluntary, it must be the law.

Finally, I and many others have complained about the Arizona Secretary of State's website for many years. it is an organizational mess that is not user friendly. Secretary of State Ken "Birther" Bennett has had four years to fix this miserable website and has failled to make any improvements. It does not speak well of his supposed management skills. The next Arizona Secretary of State needs to fix this website.

2 responses to “Primary races for Secretary of State – What I expect to hear from the candidates

  1. We could do that, and offer the candidates an interview post on their positions.

  2. This sounds like a very reasonable basis for a litmus test of the candidates for the Democratic nomination for Secretary of State. We should send them a questionnaire with these positions and publish the results.