(Update) GOP Voter Suppression Week in The Legislature

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If you were counting on your local newspaper or local television newscast to tell you what happened in the Arizona legislature yesterday, you were sorely disappointed today.

Here is the agenda from the House Elections Committee on Tuesday:

HB2125 from Rep. Bob Thorpe would prohibit a school district or other district created by law from maintaining an action to prevent the enactment of any initiative or referendum measure, and that the members of the governing body of a school district or other district are personally liable for the reasonable attorney fees and other costs of litigation incurred by people who attempt to enact the initiative or referendum measure.

The bill passed on a party line vote of 5-4, with Rep. Bolick voting “present,” prseumably due to a conflict because her husband is a Justice on the Arizona Supreme Court.

This is aimed at two of Arizona’s landmark education funding cases against the Arizona legislature: Roosevelt Elementary School District v. Bishop (1994), and Cave Creek Unified School District v. Ducey (2000). In 2017, plaintiffs filed Glendale Elementary School District v. State, alleging that the State is now out of compliance with the remedy in Roosevelt Elem. Sch. Dist. v. Bishop, subsequently Hull v. Albrecht, and is violating the Arizona Constitution, a case which is currently pending in court.

HB2272 from Rep. Bob Thorpe which requires the same officer who performed the logic and accuracy testing on electronic ballot tabulating systems and programs before the election to conduct that testing on the automatic tabulating equipment, electronic ballot tabulating systems and programs after the completion of the unofficial results of the election to ensure they continue to correctly count the votes. This rejects the idea of having someone double-check your work, and potentially could allow someone to cover-up rigging a ballot tabulating systems and programs to produce a desired result. Not exactly the best practices election security.

The bill passed on a party line vote of 5-4, with Rep. Filmore absent.

HB2304 from Rep. Townsend would modify the verification of voter registration records:

    1. Requires the administrative office of the courts to obtain the following information from each county, city and town of people who were disqualified in the previous month for jury service based on lack of United States citizenship:
    2. a) Name;
    3. b) Date of birth;
    4. c) Residence; and
    5. d) Father’s name or mother’s maiden name, if available. (Sec. 1)
    6. Stipulates that the information obtained from the administrative office of the courts must be transmitted to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. (Sec. 1)
    7. States that the record obtained by the Secretary of State is only to be used for determining whether the people are included in the statewide voter registration database. (Sec. 1)
    8. Directs the Secretary of State, after making the determination of whether the person previously provided proof of United States citizenship, to notify the appropriate county recorder if the name of the person is in the statewide voter registration database. (Sec. 1)
    9. Instructs the county recorder to determine whether the person is properly registered to vote in that county after reviewing the information provided. (Sec. 1)
    10. Mandates the Secretary of State to post on their website the number of people who are disqualified for jury service based on the claim of lack of United States citizenship. (Sec. 1)
    11. Authorizes the Attorney General to contract with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services to use a program that verifies citizenship status for agencies that grant benefits to assist Arizona in verifying voter registration information. (Sec. 2)
    12. Grants the Attorney General access to the statewide voter registration database in order to verify the information contained within the database. (Sec. 2)
    13. Specifies that a registered voter may be accompanied in the voting booth by a person of their choice if the voter requires assistance due to a disability. (Sec. 3)
    14. Requires the Secretary of State, the county recorders and the Attorney General to submit a report to each member of the Legislature regarding the following:
    15. a) A description of the efforts of an agency in removing ineligible people from the voter registration rolls;
    16. b) A description of the cooperation of an agency in working with other agencies to remove ineligible voters; and
    17. c) The number of voters removed from the voter registration rolls due to the efforts of an agency and the basis for removal. (Sec. 4)

The bill passed on a party line vote of 5-3, with Rep. Rodriguez absent and Rep. Thorpe voting “present.”

HB2307 from Rep.Townsend is a technical correction changing “election” district to “special” district in A.R.S. Sec. 16-408, for cost of special district elections. No vote recorded on ALIS.

HB2308 from Rep.Townsend is a technical correction relating to the election of judges in A.R.S. Sec. 16-332. No vote recorded on ALIS.

HB2343 from Rep. Filmore provides identification requirements for depositing an early ballot at an early voting location or voting center. Requires the officer in charge of elections to direct the person delivering the early ballot to do both of the following:

a) Sign a delivery log and print the name of the person delivering the early ballot; and
b) Provide identification, no photograph required, that matches the person delivering the ballot.

Currently a voter can simply walk in and deposit his or her signed early ballot in the ballot box without providing proof of identification. This is aimed at what the GOP calls “ballot harvesting” in which individuals can drop off early ballots for voters.

The bill passed on a party line 6-4 vote.

Back in January, the 9th Circuit struck down Arizona’s ‘ballot harvesting’ law. The 11-member Ninth Circuit panel said “Arizona’s long history of race-based voting discrimination” and “the false, race-based claims of ballot collection fraud used to convince Arizona legislators to pass” the law are among the reasons the majority found that lawmakers acted with intentional discriminatory intent. This is still the case.

HB 2776 from Rep. Bolick would modify the deadline for filing an argument for or against a measure or constitutional amendment, moving the deadline for when Legislative Council files with the SOS an impartial analysis of the provisions of each ballot proposal of a measure or constitutional amendment to no later than 30 days before the regular primary election.

The bill passed unanimously 9-0, with Rep. Townsend absent.

HB2805 from Rep. Finchem would establish the Arizona Election Process Study Committee and specifies that the Committee will consist of the following members:

    1. a) One representative of a county who is appointed by the Speaker of the House of Representatives;
    2. b) One county elections director appointed by the President of the Senate;
    3. c) One city or town elections director appointed by the Governor;
    4. d) Two members of the House of Representatives who are members of different political parties and are appointed by the Speaker of the House, who shall appoint one of them as the cochairperson of the Committee; and
    5. e) Two members of the Senate who are members of different political parties and are appointed by the President of the Senate, who shall appoint one of them as the cochairperson of the Committee. (Sec. 1)
    6. Specifies that the Committee members are not eligible to be compensated. (Sec. 1)
    7. Requires the Committee to review and consider recommendations pursuant to the following for the most recent elections:
    8. a) The opening and closing times for polling places and the number of polling places that opened late;
    9. b) Voting center and emergency voting center activities and problems;
    10. c) The use of provisional ballots in polling places and voting centers, and the process of verifying and tabulating those ballots;
    11. d) Ballot tabulating process for regular ballots and voter suppression claims; and
    12. e) Whether the Secretary of State follows federal and state election laws generally and with respect to the statewide voter registration database. (Sec. 1)
    13. States that the Committee will submit a report on its findings and recommendations to the Governor, the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives while also providing a copy of this report to the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. (Sec. 1)

This is an attempt by the legislature to take over the Secretary of State functions of regulation of elections, and your county board of supervisors and county recorders — lookin’ at you Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes — selection and management of polling place locations.

The bill passed on a party line vote of 6-4.

HB2827 from Rep. Finchem instructs the county recorder or other officer in charge of elections to conduct a hand count if certain conditions apply:

    1. Stipulates that the following is required of a county recorder or other officer in charge of elections when the number of ballots cast exceeds the number of registered voters on the 29th day before the date of the election:
    2. a) Conduct a hand count for that precinct; and
    3. b) Post the results of the hand count on the website of the county recorder or other officer in charge of elections. (Sec. 1)
    4. Requires the county recorder or other officer in charge of elections, within 10 days of the official canvass to:
    5. a) Publish the error logs, if any, in a newspaper of general circulation in the county for all tabulating equipment that was used in the election; and
    6. b) Certify that the tabulating equipment was not connected to an external internet network between 24 hours before early ballot tabulation through the completion of ballot tabulation. (Sec. 1)
    7. States that a person will be referred to the United States Department of Justice for investigation if the county recorder or other officer in charge of elections determines that they have cast more than one ballot in an election where a federal candidate appears on the ballot. (Sec. 1)

The bill passed on a party line 6-4 vote.

I’m not sure how these Republicans expect this to be done. Most Arizonans vote by early ballot, not on election day at their designated precinct. Those early ballots, to the best of my knowledge from having done the hand count audit of ballots since the law was enacted, are not sorted by precinct (the tallies are sorted electronically by precinct), so that the ballots can be pulled together with the ballots cast on election day at the precinct (this has long been my objection to the “partial” hand count audit of ballots under our current system). We’re talking a lot of effort and work in a short period of time.

The real purpose of this bill is the last provision, the belief that voters are casting more than one ballot. These cases are exceedingly rare. As of 2017, Voter fraud in Arizona: How often does it happen?: of the 30 referrals received by the Attorney General’s Office, twenty resulted in convictions, of the others, six cases were turned down, one was dismissed, one conviction was overturned on appeal and two cades are still active. Several of these individuals claimed in court documents that they did not intentionally vote twice. Accidental double voting is probably the most common type of voter fraud that occurs, said David Wells, senior political-science lecturer at Arizona State University. Intentional voter fraud is “pretty much nonexistent,” Wells said.

HCR2032 from Rep. Kern requires initiative measures to only cover one subject and matters relating to that subject. An initiative measure must embrace only one subject and matters connected to that subject and requires the subject to be expressed in the title of the initiative measure. As Howard Fisher reports today, Slew of GOP-led measures would make ballot initiatives more difficult in Arizona:

HCR 2032, being pushed by Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, would spell out that initiatives being sent to voters “shall embrace but one subject and matters properly connected therewith.” And it says any provision not in the official title of the measure would be void, even if approved by voters.

Rivko Knox of the League of Women Voters warned lawmakers of pitfalls.

For example, she noted, the 2016 measure that hiked the state’s minimum wage also contained a provision to require companies to provide paid time off for their employees, provisions Knox said were all part of the issue of workers’ rights. She said a measure like this could preclude such a proposal from ever getting enacted again.

And, if nothing else, Knox said creating this new hurdle would give challengers new legal opportunities to try to knock proposals off the ballot with claims of multiple subjects, potentially quashing initiatives even before voters got a chance to weigh in.

The bill passed on a party line 6-4 vote.

HCR2039 from Rep. Finchem would modify the constitutional requirements for proposing an initiative or referendum. As Howard Fisher reports today, Slew of GOP-led measures would make ballot initiatives more difficult in Arizona:

HCR 2039, pushed by Rep. Mark Finchem, R-Oro Valley, would require that signatures on initiative petitions be gathered from each of the state’s 30 legislative districts. More to the point, they would have to get one-thirtieth of the minimum number of signatures from each of those districts.

With a requirement for 237,645 signatures for statutory changes, the measure would mean at least 7,922 signatures from each district; constitutional changes that have to have 356,467 signatures on petitions would need at least 11,883 names on 30 separate batches of petitions from each district.

That is far different than existing law that does not impose a geographic requirement. It is that lack that Finchem seeks to alter to ensure that measures do not get on the November ballot solely because they might have support only in one area of the state.

The flip side of that, however, is that organizations that lack volunteers throughout the state — or cannot afford to send paid lobbyists to rural counties — would never get their measures before state voters.

There were objections from those who have been involved in crafting initiatives and getting them on the ballot.

“This would unduly constrain the people’s right to initiate laws,” said Sandy Bahr, director of the Arizona chapter of the Sierra Club. Her organization has been involved in multiple ballot efforts[.]

The bill passed on a party line 6-4 vote.

HCR2046 from Rep. Bowers would require the reauthorization of statewide initiative and referendum measures every 10 years retroactively to all previous statewide initiative and referendum measures approved after January 1, 1990. It specifies that all retroactive statewide initiative and referendum measures must be referred to the qualified electors for reauthorization at the general election in 2030.

As Howard Fischer says, “[This] would force new votes on everything from medical marijuana and that minimum-wage hike to creation of the system that allows statewide and legislative candidates to get public funding if they agree not to take special-interest dollars.” On the plus side, it would also require reauthorization of all of those crazy right-wing initiatives enacted since 1990, including the “Two-Thirds for Taxes” initiative, Prop. 108 (1992) aka the “GOP’s weapon of mass destruction” for taxes in Arizona. Didn’t think of that, did you Rusty?

The bill passed on a party line 6-4 vote.

As Howard Fischer reminds, “Even if all the ballot measures gain legislative approval that does not mean they will take effect: Each change would go on the November ballot, where voters would get the last word.”

One other measure not on the House Elections Committee agenda on Tuesday is SCR1020 from Senator Leach which would partially repeal the Voter Protection Act enacted by voters in 1998. This bill would “Allow the Legislature to amend all or a portion of an approved initiative or referendum relating to public health or safety [broadly interpreted, of course] with a simple majority vote of each house of the Legislature.” It also “Specifies that a legislative amendment to an approved initiative or referendum measure relating to public health or safety is not required to further the purpose of the original approved initiative or referendum measure.” This is a big “fuck you” to the citizens of Arizona who enacted the Voter Protection Act from our authoritarian Republican overlords.

The bill was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on January 28 by a party line vote of 4-3. This ballot measure is also be subject to voter approval. You know what to do.