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The Daily Agenda: Vote Like Your Ability to Vote Depends on It


click to enlarge State Rep. Mark Finchem's latest legislative lunacy related to the 2020 election is going nowhere. - COURTESY STATE OF ARIZONA

Courtesy State of Arizona

State Rep. Mark Finchem’s latest legislative lunacy related to the 2020 election is going nowhere.

You can vote for both, but please don’t … Judging at the speed of business … And the man just loved craps.

The future of voting in Arizona could be decided at the ballot box this year as two dueling ballot measures that are attempting to qualify for the ballot offer visions of voting that couldn’t be more different. 

And then there’s whatever the Arizona Legislature will do, and the options range from nearly 100 election-related bills with hosts of smaller changes to straight-up decertifying an election (as a resolution filed by Arizona Rep. and not-a-lawyer Mark Finchem wants to do). 

The Arizonans for Fair Elections measure, filed yesterday and backed by a coalition of local left-leaning groups, attacks a spate of laws from the past few years that limited voting access in Arizona and seeks to protect election results from potential overturning. 

The measure has four goals, according to Joel Edman, the co-executive director for communications at ADRC Action: protecting the right to vote and access to voting, protecting election results from partisan meddling, protecting the public’s right to pass ballot measures and limiting the power of lobbyists and outside influence. 

“Some of these are trying to address long-standing issues and build a democracy where we all have a voice, and some are more targeted to rolling back restrictions we’ve seen in the past few years,” Edman said.

Some of the elements of the measure will cost money, like increased Clean Elections funding for candidates who don’t accept money from outside sources and some funding for elections infrastructure. The costs will be covered by increasing the lobbyist registration fee from $25 to $50, increasing the minimum income tax for large businesses from $50 to $150 and restoring a $5 tax donation program for Clean Elections. 

Another measure, dubbed the Easier to Vote, Harder to Cheat Act, wants to make it so Arizona races are called earlier, though the measure would do that by limiting early voting. It would cut the window for early ballots and make it so you couldn’t drop them off on Election Day; you would instead have to complete a ballot the regular way at the polls. It would also make Election Day an official state holiday. 

“What we’re really trying to do here — and I will acknowledge the initiative doesn’t come right out here and say this — what we’re really trying to do is put the counties in a position where 99% of the votes cast in any particular general election are counted by the time the sun comes up on the Wednesday after the election,” Lee Miller, a former assistant secretary of state, told the Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda.

We’re sure the most outlandish bills in the Legislature this session won’t make it into law, like the one that got assigned to 12 committees. (And any of the eventual elections laws that get signed in could then become subjects of referendum, or “citizen veto” campaigns.) But that’s usually how it works: Someone in the majority party throws out an egregious bill, it gets walked back and the compromise bill looks tame in comparison. Maybe the threat of losing the Super Bowl — again — will play a role in what happens this session. 

Backers of the two measures will need to collect more than 237,000 signatures to qualify for the ballot. That’ll cost millions of dollars and armies of paid circulators and volunteers, and that’s before they have to convince voters their plan is the best way forward. 

Politicians like to say that the future of democracy is on the ballot. This year, it will literally be true.

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Can’t you speed up just a little?: A Maricopa County judge warned lawmakers that he’s going to take his sweet time deciding whether Proposition 208, the Invest in Education initiative, is constitutional. The problem is that Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to lift the looming education spending cap to allow schools to spend the 16% of their budgets that the cap makes untouchable until the courts rule on Prop 208 because lifting the cap would undercut their legal argument. The cap must be lifted by March 1 to avoid financial ruin for the public school system, the Republic’s Mary Jo Pitzl reports. But Maricopa County Superior Court Judge John Hannah legally has until March 10 to decide, and he told lawmakers who urged him to hurry up that that ain’t happening.

“I get the decision out when I get it out,” he said, per Pitzl. “I hope the policymakers can figure out how to work around what I’m doing. My point is to give the case due consideration and decide it as best I can.”

It’s none of your business if she shows up to work or not: Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel went on KJZZ’s The Show and KTAR yesterday to defend herself against a backdrop of new allegations from former Republican County Attorney Rick Romley, Adel’s friend and mentor. Romley told the Republic that she is “not doing the job” and is making life harder for her employees who are running the office in her absence. Adel shot back that she knows who in the office is tattling on her and that she’s sad there’s so much “conjecture and hearsay” about her ability to do the job while working on her addiction problems, and accused people of “politicizing” her “personal journey.”

“It’s perfectly legal” is not usually a great defense: Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said Gov. Doug Ducey can use his war powers to put the Arizona National Guard on the border to fight drugs and gangs if he wants. Brnovich released the legal opinion Monday in response to a request from Arizona Rep. Jake Hoffman, who was one of the legislators calling for Ducey to deploy the Guard. Some Guard members are already at the border, but on a support mission, not to defend the state. 

May the most connected contractor win: Arizona is setting up a new mental health crisis hotline, but one of the local nonprofits that wants to apply for the contract is flagging the process as unfairly slanted to favor an out-of-state competitor, the Republic’s Stephanie Innes writes. 

There’s that bipartisanship they’re always touting: Democratic U.S. Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Mark Kelly teamed up with Republican Rep. David Schweikert (and a whole bunch of non-Arizona lawmakers) to push legislation to extend telehealth services for Medicare patients, which were originally supposed to expire in 2023, the Republic’s Cami Parrish notes.

We feel you: Several longtime lawmakers have caught a bad case of the Great Resignation. It seems Democratic Sen. Rebecca Rios and Democratic Rep. Robert Meza, who combined have spent nearly 40 years at the Capitol, are running for much cushier gigs as justices of the peace. 

ICYMI, we love the border campaign ad genre: Gubernatorial candidate Karrin Taylor Robson’s border ad, in which she calmly speaks her lines as (allegedly) undocumented immigrants pass close by her at the U.S.-Mexico border, sent up red flags at FS1, a FOX Sports-owned cable channel. The channel said it will no longer air her ad unless she provides an affidavit that the video was actually filmed at the border, as well as proof of citizenship for everyone shown, Taylor Robson tweeted. She called the request censorship and “nuts,” and her campaign flatly denied that there was any creative editing of the video. 

Don’t call him while driving: Accountable Arizona is pumping six figures into digital ads and billboards around the Valley declaring Gov. Doug Ducey is under FBI investigation (as we’ve noted, that really seems like a stretch) and urging Arizonans to call him and tell him to stand against corruption. Why? Because there’s still time for him to jump into the U.S. Senate race and this serves as a preview of the hits to come if he does. 

A blast from the past: This NPR story about the situation in Ukraine, a topic where we are out of our depth as local Arizona journalists, features Kurt Volker, who you may remember from the time he stepped down as executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at Arizona State University and as special envoy to Ukraine under Trump (which we remember because a college student at the State Press, Andrew Howard, broke the international news). Anyway, Volker was in Kyiv at the time NPR talked to him recently, where he “happened to be for the opening of American University Kyiv, a partnership with Arizona State University.”

A blast from the even past-er past: A new book from New York Times reporter Jeremy W. Peters reveals how the late U.S. Sen. John McCain selected Sarah Palin as his running mate. His advisers told him it was a risk not just to his electoral prospects, but to his reputation. McCain was undeterred. 

“McCain, an avid craps player, balled up his fist and blew on it, then shook it like he was about to roll a pair of dice. ‘F—- it,’ he said. ‘Let’s do it.’”

That damn Census: The Latino community’s growing influence in state politics could be disrupted by a Census that didn’t fully count them and a redistricting process where Latinos fared poorly, James E. Garcia writes for the Arizona Mirror.  

Enjoy the winter while it lasts: It might be Phoenix sweater weather right now, but cities are preparing for a scorching summer yet again. The City of Phoenix expects to finalize a citywide plan for heat response that focuses on the homeless population, including more shelter beds and cooling stations, KJZZ’s Christina Estes reports. 

A tiny version of a universal basic income: One thousand low-income families in Phoenix will get $1,000 per month for the next year, with the first set of loaded debit cards arriving this week, the Phoenix New Times reports. The city chose the 1,000 families in a lottery process, and the program is paid for with federal pandemic relief money.

Today we have a double feature of two bills that Republican Speaker of the Arizona House Rusty Bowers is backing that have Democratic support. 

House Bill 2650 would create a new division within the Department of Public Safety to investigate police use-of-force incidents at other departments and require every police agency to utilize either the new bureau, a regional law enforcement task force or an outside law enforcement agency to investigate any critical force incident in Arizona. Democrats were quick to compliment the bill while noting it was their idea first.

And HB2802 would create a statewide ban on discriminating against gay and transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodations. Several Arizona cities have similar protections in place, but Arizona has no statewide law — in part because Bowers has opposed it in the past, the Arizona Capitol Times’ Nathan Brown writes. The bill also has the backing of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, of which Bowers is a member. Democratic Rep. Amish Shah sponsored the bill and Bowers is a co-sponsor.

Before we get into this further, keep in mind that Social Security numbers have nine digits. 

Now, check out this classic Gawker story about how they requested U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema’s divorce records from 1999 from Maricopa County, which included unredacted personal information like her Social Security number and bank info. The clerk’s office told the outlet that they only needed to redact such information if they had a court order. 

You may have noticed a number near the top of the Gawker story. It is not, in fact, a Social Security number, despite the immediate Twitter outrage. It is the phone number that rapper Soulja Boy sings in the 2008 hit, “Kiss Me Thru the Phone.” Gawker didn’t publish the personal information “out of respect for Sinema and because we like our jobs.” 

“You can do a lot with a social security number,” Gawker reporter Tarpley Hitt writes. “Unfortunately, if the number in question isn’t yours, most of what you can do with it is a felony.” 

 





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