If you care about the fundamental constitutional right to vote and GOP voter suppression efforts like HB 2305, then you had better be paying attention to the Secretary of State race.

Former Arizona Attorney General Terry Goddard is running for Secretary of State this year. The Payson Roundup scoops the big dailies with this report. Voting reform dominates campaign:


goddardThe normally low-key secretary of state’s office has suddenly moved to the center of the political debate as the result of a swirl of intensely controversial election reforms and rising concerns of about the impact of mysterious “dark money” on the political system.

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In a recent appearance in Phoenix, former Arizona Attor­ney General Terry Goddard said he decided to run yet another statewide campaign to win the open secretary of state’s office as a result of fierce struggles over voting requirements plus court rulings that allowed donors to pour millions in “dark money” into political campaigns without revealing their identities.

“Dark money does get people excited — people are getting very upset,” said Goddard. “The devil’s in the details when it comes to disclosure laws.

“These groups all sound like motherhood and apple pie, but you need more than the name.”

As an example, he cited the current recent investigation into the Phoenix-based Center to Protect Patient Rights. Political consultant Sean Noble set up the group to funnel anonymous, multi-million-dollar contributions into political campaigns. The group reports fundraising and contributions, but doesn’t have to reveal where it got the money.

Noble collected some $127 million for conservative candidates in the 2012 election. The group put $11 million into a California ballot measure campaigns that would have curbed union spending and opposed a tax approved by the governor and Legislature. Those contributions have triggered an investigation by the California Attorney General’s Office, since state law requires the disclosure of donors to ballot campaigns.

[California’s Fair Political Practices Commission called it “the largest contribution ever disclosed as campaign money-laundering in California history.” Dark Money Groups Pay $1 Million in Fines in California Case.]

[The bag man for “Kochtopus” campaign money laundering, Sean Noble, and his DC London consultant group produced the recent attack ad on GOP gubernatorial candidate Christine Jones. Noble is an ally of Doug Ducey, also a GOP candidate for governor. Who’s behind latest hit on Christine Jones? Noble claims that “For the record, Doug Ducey is not a client of mine or my firm, nor do I play any role in his campaign for Governor.” Doug Ducey | Noble Thinking. Yeah, but you are the bag man for the “Kochtopus” dark money organizations supporting Doug Ducey. No campaign coordination to see here.]

“We don’t have a Legislature that’s in favor of full disclosure,” said the former Phoenix mayor [and two-term Attorney General] who has also staged two, unsuccessful bids for governor, “and corporate donors who don’t want their fingerprints on anything.”

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[M]ostly the secretary of state oversees the state’s election system and the once quiet job has moved into the center of an increasing number of election controversies.

Incumbent Republican Secre­tary of State Steve Bennett is now running for governor, but gained national attention as secretary of state by demanding that Presi­dent Barack Obama’s campaign provide proof of citizenship before he would list the president on the ballot. Bennett later backed down, but said the questions about whether Obama had been born in Kenya instead of Hawaii prompted his request.

[Bennett is also pursuing Arizona’s Prop. 200 proof-of-citizenship for voter registration in court, Kobach v. U.S. Election Assistance Commission, which disenfranchises U.S. citizens who do not possess the forms of ID required by the state Arizona. Bennet is also proceeding with a dual election system in this year’s election in which voters who registered to vote using the federal National Voter Registration Form will not be permitted to vote for any candidates other than for federal offices (Congress), disenfranchising several thousand Arizona voters from voting for state offices.]

Michele Reagan, one of the Republicans running for the job, also recently appeared at an event in Payson. She said she’s focused on election reforms to clean up the mail-in voting process. She wants to get rid of the provisions that would let a third person turn in sealed, signed mail-in ballots. [Reagan was the cosponsor of the GOP Voter Suppression Act, HB 2305, which included these same provisions.] Republican groups say the practice leaves the system open to fraud and manipulation. However, the Hispanic groups that have boosted turnout by collecting ballots from people who did not remember to fill them out or turn them in say the proposed changes are intended to suppress voter participation.

The other candidates on the Republican side include Wil Cardon and [state Rep.] Justin Pierce.

Recent efforts to pass a whole bundle of election reforms have injected a large measure of controversy into the secretary of state’s race.

Almost two years ago, Repub­licans passed a bundle of election law changes in the final days of the Legislature in the form of strike-all bills that had not undergone normal committee hearings [HB 2305]. The bills included a host of changes, many making it harder to vote by mail. Republicans said the bills would protect the system from fraud and abuse. Democrats — backed by many Hispanic groups — said the changes would suppress voter participation, especially among minority groups with historically much lower turnout rates. Those groups generally vote overwhelmingly Democratic.

Critics of the measures promptly gathered 140,000 signatures for a referendum that would have repealed the whole package of bills. The Republican Legisla­ture then repealed the bills themselves, making the referendum moot. [Thus depriving the voters of Arizona of their constitutional right to a “citizens veto” of legislation.] Legislative leaders [see Reagan above] have said they want to bring back some of those measures separately, including the changes to routinely purge the mail-in ballot measures and bar any third party from turning in or mailing someone else’s signed and sealed ballot.

“I was a little astonished when I looked at the bills,” said Goddard. “For instance, if a husband took his invalid wife’s ballot to the mailbox, he’d be breaking the law. It was statutory over reach. But the Legislature quickly ran back into its hole” by repealing the measures when the referendum qualified for the ballot.

He also said he would push for measures that would make it easier for voters registered as Independents to vote in either the Democratic or Republican primaries, where most legislative seats are decided.

Currently, Independents can vote in either primary — but if they’re voting by mail, they have to request one of the other parties ballots. As a result, while about half of registered party members participate in primaries, only about 7.5 percent of Independents vote in primaries. This year for the first time in state history, more voters registered as Independents than for either political party.

“I love the idea of Indepen­dents voting in the primary. One of the reasons we’ve gotten so radical is the smaller and smaller base in the two parties. You have only about 24 percent of the voters really participating.”

He also criticized the Legislature’s increasing control of local elections. For instance, the Legislature this year has required school districts and cities to have local elections on the same day as the statewide party primaries. Backers of that change said it would prevent schools districts and cities from scheduling purely local elections, which usually have much lower turnouts than general elections. However, local officials worry that many of the voters that turn out for things like the governor’s and president’s race won’t pay much attention to the local issues.

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He said he decided to run again for statewide office because the Legislature repeatedly got involved in political sideshows that made the state look bad nationally — like a bill to allow business owners to refuse service to someone based on religious beliefs widely considered an open door to discrimination against gays.

“I just got so angry about the missteps by the state Legisla­ture,” said Goddard, whose father once served two terms as governor. “I want to get back to the moderate state I grew up in. The office most responsible for getting people to the polls is the secretary of state. So I couldn’t just sit on the sidelines. What we have now is a group of politicians trying to pick their voters — rather than the voters picking the politicians.”

If you care about the fundamental constitutional right to vote and GOP voter suppression efforts like HB 2305, there is only one candidate for whom to vote in this race, Democrat Terry Goddard.