By Craig McDermott, cross-posted from Random Musings
Wow. The Arizona Legislature has found a way to turn what should have been the least problematical ballot question, the one that, if passed, would rename the office of the Secretary of State to the office of Lieutenant Governor, into the one most likely to get Arizona slapped around in federal court.
And that's an accomplishment, considering that the other measures foisted off on us by the legislature include an anti-affirmative action question (Prop. 107), an anti-health care reform question (Prop. 106), and an anti-union question (Prop. 113).
However, dedicated ideologues that they are, they pulled it off.
The rationale for the measure is rooted in the fact that it's been nearly a quarter-century since Arizona had a governor who both entered and exited office as the result of an election. Because of an impeachment (Evan Mecham), some felony convictions (Da Fifester) and a resignation to accept a promotion to D.C. (Janet Napolitano), three of Arizona's Secretarys of State have ascended to the Governor's office - Rose Mofford, Jane Hull, and Jan Brewer.
The supporters of the measure want to highlight to the public that the SOS is second in line for the ninth floor and want to accomplish that by changing the vote for SOS to a vote for Lt. Governor. The actual day-to-day duties of the job wouldn't change.
They also wish to make sure that the Lt. Governor and the Governor are from the same party in order to avoid situations where the SOS was a member of a different party than that of the governor she replaced (Mofford was a D, she replaced R Mecham; Brewer is an R who replaced a D in Napolitano).
To be sure, there was some contention over the SOS/Lt. Governor measure, contention that crosses partisan lines - the limited opposition in the lege came from Rs, yet personally, I (a Democrat) don't support it.
Regardless of the name of the office, the duties will still be that of a secretary of state, not a 'governor-in-waiting" and people should know what they are voting for. It would have been better to create an actual office of lieutenant governor (not exactly a radical concept - most states have one) or to simply remind voters that AZ doesn't have a Lt. Governor and the line of succession should be one of the factors they consider when choosing an SOS.
There are other problems with the measure. Robert Robb, a conservative columnist for the Arizona Republic, has pointed out that the language of Prop. 111 would effectively bar independent voters, those not affiliated with a specific recognized political party, from holding either office.
From Prop. 111 -
C. DURING THE PRIMARY ELECTION, CANDIDATES FOR THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR SHALL RUN FOR THAT OFFICE SEPARATELY FROM ANY CANDIDATES FOR THE OFFICE OF LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR. ON COMPLETION OF THE PRIMARY ELECTION, EACH NOMINEE FOR THE OFFICE OF GOVERNOR SHALL RUN ON A TICKET AS A JOINT CANDIDATE IN THE GENERAL ELECTION WITH THE NOMINEE FOR THE OFFICE OF LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR FROM THE SAME POLITICAL PARTY AS THE NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR. AT THE GENERAL ELECTION, A SINGLE VOTE FOR A NOMINEE FOR GOVERNOR SHALL CONSTITUTE A VOTE FOR THAT NOMINEE'S TICKET, INCLUDING THE NOMINEE FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR. FOR ANY WINNING CANDIDATE FOR GOVERNOR AT THE GENERAL ELECTION, THAT WINNING CANDIDATE'S JOINT CANDIDATE FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR IS THE WINNING CANDIDATE FOR LIEUTENANT GOVERNOR.
Please note the repeated use of the word "shall." The proposed language would make partisan affiliation for seekers of those two offices mandatory.
As Robb points out in his column, in the era of "disenchantment" with partisan politics, it's probably not the brightest idea to been seen as actively disenfranchising non-affiliated office seekers.
Something else hasn't been pointed out, at least not anywhere that I've yet seen - Arizona is one of the states still subject to the "preclearance" provisions of the Voting Rights Act of 1964 in regard to anything that affects election practices or procedures.
Before any changes to such practices and procedures can go into effect, the changes have to be examined and approved by the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
And as something that restricts the pool of candidates eligible to hold the office that oversees the conduct of elections, this definitely seems to qualify for DOJ examination under the Voting Rights Act.
A couple of conversations with people who are a lot more familiar with this area than me seems to bear this out, but the DOJ cannot and will not step in until and unless Prop. 111 is passed by the voters (until then, officially, they have nothing to consider).
Supporters of the measure acknowledge that there are problems, but feel that they can be corrected with bills passed by the legislature.
Perhaps some of the issues could be so corrected, but the actual language of a voter-approved amendment to the AZ Constitution cannot be touched by the legislature. Period.
The state's Republicans like to gripe about Arizona's inclusion on the list of states subject to "preclearance," but moves like this only serve to ensure that Arizona will remain on the list for the foreseeable future.
Updates as more info becomes available...