Veto the Voter Suppression Act, HB 2305

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Howard Fischer from Capitol Media Services has a decent explanation of the Voter Suppression Act, HB 2305, passed by the Tea-Publican controlled Arizona legislature before sine die. GOP OKs series of changes in election law:

Kill-bill-vol-1Republicans used the final hours of their just-ended legislative session
to push through a series of changes in election laws that could give
them advantages in future elections.

* * *

Among the additions:

• Making it a crime for volunteer
political workers and organizations to collect early ballots from voters
and take them to polling places;

• Increasing the number of signatures that minor-party legislative and congressional candidates need to get on the ballot;


Imposing higher legal standards on voter-sponsored initiatives, making
it easier to throw them off the ballot if they do not strictly comply
with each and every provision of the law;

• Adding some procedural requirements to recall laws.

Let's unpack some of these changes. If you are a member of the Libertarian Party, or the Green Party, or the new Americans Elect Party, you now have a big problem qualifying your candidates for the ballot.

Current law sets the number of signatures a candidate needs to qualify for the ballot based upon the number of registered voters in the candidate's political party. For example, in a Democratic voter registration advantage district, a Democrat may need 385 minimum number of signatures to qualify, a Republican may need only 165 minimum number of signatures to qualify, and minor political parties have a ridiculously low number of minimum signatures to qualify.

HB 2305 puts all political parties on an equal footing, requiring one-sixth of one percent of the total voter registration in at least three counties for statewide candidates for office, and one-third of one percent of the total voter registration in the district from which a congressional candidate, or a state legislative candidate is elected. This has the potential to keep minor political party candidates off the ballot and to reduce the choices available to voters in November. I would think the Libertarian Party and Green Party are consulting their lawyers about suing to block HB 2305.

Then there is the provision making it a class one misdemeanor for political committees and voter advocacy groups to assist voters by picking up and delivering their early ballots to election officials. This is primarily directed at the Democratic Party, which has provided this service to voters for years, and voter advocacy groups such as Citizens for a Better Arizona, which registers new voters in the Latino community and assists these voters, many of whom are wary of government officials, with voting. This is the voter's choice to use this service. The legislature has now taken away this choice from voters.

The statute does exempt precinct committeemen — who are elected party officials — from this provision, but only if they are not acting at the direction of a political committee, group or organization. Very few precinct commiteemen are going to take the risk of being investigated and charged with a class one misdemeanor. This chilling effect on this civic activity is the intent of this provision.

HB 2305 will make citizens initiatives costly and extremely difficult to accomplish with new onerous and burdensome requirements. This is an attempt to limit the constitutional rights of Arizona citizens to initiative, referendum and recall. it will pretty much limit this activity to professional petition companies with paid circulators. It is also a full employment bill for attorneys representing parties challenging initiatives, referendums and recalls.

Reversing a court decision last year regarding the filing of Prop. 204, HB 2305 declares that only the time-and-date-marked text of the measure that accompanied the application constitutes the official copy (the computer disc electronic copy does not count). The time-and-date-marked copy of the text is the only valid copy of the measure for circulation for signatures, and must be attached to each petition, or the signatures are invalid.

Petitions must have the serial number assigned by the Secretary of State in the lower right corner on each page.

The signature gatherer shall subscribe and swear before a notary public that the name and address were printed by the elector on the affidavit portion of the petition. Under current case law, only the signature of the elector matters, and signature gatherers frequently print the name and address and date for the elector. This comon practice will render the signature invalid now.

Here is where it gets costly. The political committee that files the petition shall organize the signature sheets and group them by county, the circulator who collected them, and the notary public who notarized the circulator's signature. The Secretary of State may return any petitions not so organized. The Secretary of State shall make a reasonable cause finding of failure to comply with this section, and refer it to the Attorney General. The Attorney General then may issue a compliance order directing the political committee to reorganize its petitions. Any reorganization required does not extend the time for filing.

The most onerous provision is the legislature's finding that the "strict compliance" standard shall apply in court to any legal challenges, reversing the long-standing "substantial compliance" standard followed in Arizona and most other states. This can lead to disqualification of petitions for hyper-technical noncomplance, such as using the wrong type face or type size, the margins and spacing are off, etc. Do you really want your constitutional rights to initiative, referendum and recall subject to such hyper-technical scrutiny? This goes against long-standing Arizona court precedents which favor the rights of citizens in these instances.

Then there is this crazy provision. A political committee may submit to the Secretary of State 45 days before the petition deadline a list of all petition circulators who circulated the petition and a copy of a criminal background check for each petition circulator verified by an entity licensed to do so at an “arms length transaction.” The Secretary of State may adopt rules to determine what is an “arms length transaction.” This creates a rebuttable presumption in any challenge to petition circulators, which can be overcome by a preponderance of the evidence.

This provision esentially applies to professional petition companies with paid circulators, and puts them in the position of incurring expenses for criminal background checks. I can't imagine that any true citizens initiative effort, or even the political parties, are going to subject their volunteers to a criminal background check. The whole point of this is to make the initiative, referendum and recall process too expensive for citizens to exercise their constitutional rights.

What's next Howard?

The legislation says if you don't use your early ballot for four
elections over two years, then a postcard goes out. If you don't respond
to that, you no longer get an early ballot in the mail.

In other words the Permanent Early Voter List (PEVL) is a misnomer because it's not really "permanent." If a PEVL voter does not vote early by mail, or "opt in" to remain on the PEVL list, the voter can be purged from the PEVL list by the County Recorder.

Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said he prefers an affirmative opt-out: Mail the postcard – but people who
are otherwise eligible to vote remain on the list unless they
specifically ask to be removed.

Exactly right! (This was requested from the bill sponsor and was rejected).

The bill also contains a provision altering laws requiring Secretary
of State Ken Bennett to forward campaign finance law violations to the
attorney general. It says the complaint can go to the county attorney if
the target is the attorney general.

That stems from a court
ruling earlier this year that Bennett had to give a complaint against
Attorney General Tom Horne to Horne. Even if Horne could not investigate
himself, the judge said, current law permits Horne to decide who will.

The
legislation undoes that ruling by making Bennett's power to give the
complaint against Horne to the county attorney retroactive to last July,
before the complaint against Horne was filed.

There has been a lot of speculation and rumors about what caused three Republican Senators to flip their votes on reconsideration after voting to kill this bill. Howard Fischer offers his take:

Sen. Steve Pierce, R-Prescott, said he got a call from Daniel Scarpinato, former press aide to state
House Speaker Andy Tobin. Scarpinato now works for the NRCC in
Washington.

Scarpinato sidestepped questions of whether he was
calling on behalf of the NRCC, saying he was "talking to friends of mine
in Arizona." He also denied pressuring Pierce but would not detail what
he did say.

When the measure was resurrected, Pierce was a
supporter. Pierce said he still had concerns about making it harder for
minority party candidates to get on the ballot and making criminals out
of those who take in someone else's ballot.

But he said he also
saw merits to other sections. And after other Republicans who he thought
also were opposed went along, he saw no reason to be the lone GOP
dissenter – and the cause for the bill's failure.

So it was former Arizona Daily Star political reporter and all-around prick Daniel Scarpinato who was responsible.

This bill is still subject to Department of Justice Voting Rights Act preclearance (unless the U.S. Supreme Court strikes down Section 5), and I understand that litigation is being contemplated. A citizens referendum to put HB 2305 before the voters in November 2014 is also a possibility.

But for right now, the best course of action is to contact Governor Jan Brewer and insist that she veto this voter suppression bill.

The Honorable Janice K. Brewer
Arizona Governor
Executive Tower
1700 West Washington Street
Phoenix, AZ 85007

Telephone, Fax:

Phoenix Office: (602) 542-4331
Tucson Office: (520) 628-6580
Fax Number: (602) 542-1381

In-State Toll Free 1-800-253-0883 (outside Maricopa County only)

E-mail form: Contact the Governor

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