Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The era of bipartisan good will over the passage of the Medicaid (AHCCCS) restoration/expansion plan did not even last a full week. Today Governor Brewer demonstrated her partisan hackitude by signing the Voter Suppression Act, HB 2305.
The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports Brewer signs election overhaul bill:
Gov. Jan Brewer signed a far-reaching elections bill that will help weed inactive voters from the Permanent Early Voter List, prohibit political organizations from collecting early ballots en masse and impose stricter legal standards on citizen initiatives.
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Brewer spokesman Matthew Benson said HB2305 remedies a lot of problems that Brewer faced during her six years as secretary of state.
“It is a critical election reform measure that will help ensure that the vote counting doesn’t drag on for weeks and weeks after every election,” Benson said. “In many cases these have been long-running problems in the state of Arizona.”
But opponents of the legislation, including legislative Democrats and Latino activists, allege that the bill is intended to suppress Democratic and minority votes. Early ballot collection and PEVL sign-ups have been a staple of Democratic get-out-the-vote efforts for years.
The bill makes it Class 1 misdemeanor for campaigns or political organizations to collect voters’ early ballots. Voters can still designate someone to return their ballots to election officials if they want, but political organizations can no longer collect large numbers of ballots as they have in the past.
Under the bill, people who receive early ballots but don’t use them for at least two federal election cycles would receive a notice from their county recorder’s office asking them to verify that they want to keep their names on the PEVL. If they don’t return the notice, their names are removed from the list.
When people receive early ballots but instead opt to vote in person at a polling place, they must use a provisional ballot. Supporters of the bill say excessive numbers of provisional ballots caused significant delays in the 2012 vote count.
Another provision would impose the legal standard of strict compliance to initiatives, referendums and recall campaigns. The law was a response to the court battle over Proposition 204 last year. Organizers accidentally filed two different versions of the initiative language with the Secretary of State’s Office, but a judge ruled that they had substantially complied with state election laws and allowed the measure onto the ballot.
The bill would also dramatically increase the number of signatures needed for third-party candidates to get their names on the ballot, and will give the Secretary of State’s Office the authority to send Attorney General Tom Horne’s campaign finance case directly to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office.
The Libertarian Party, Green Party and Americans Elect Party are being disenfranchised by this GOP Voter Suppression Act. Howard Fischer reported this morning, Measure makes it tougher for 3rd-party candidates to reach ballot :
Contending one and maybe two congressional races were stolen from them, Republican legislators have approved a measure to finesse election laws to keep out the Libertarians who they say are taking votes from their candidates.
The change, tucked into a much larger set of revisions to election laws, would sharply increase the number of signatures that Libertarian and Green Party candidates need just to get on the ballot for their own legislative and congressional primaries.
Barry Hess, the Libertarian Party's former candidate for governor, said in most cases the number of signatures required is far more than the number of people actually registered in most districts. He said unless these minor parties could find independents willing to help them get on the ballot, it would create an "insurmountable obstacle'' to any minor party candidate getting nominated, much less being on the general election ballot.
But Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, admitted publicly that's precisely the purpose of the change. And the real goal is creating an easier path for GOP candidates to win.
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Mesnard said upping the signature requirements for minor parties makes these races "much less vulnerable to sham candidates and manipulation.''
And to drive the point home, Mesnard said the legislation should be supported by Republicans who were "disappointed in the outcome'' of those races.''
"So I strongly urge folks, at least in my party, who looked at the last election in November of 2012 and were disappointed with the outcome, and looked at a couple of the third-party candidates that were in there and how they impacted us in a detrimental way'' to support the legislation.
And to drive home the point to his GOP colleagues, he noted this change applies not only to congressional races but also to legislative battles. Mesnard told them that if they didn't vote for this change, they could be personally and directly affected in their next race.
"I can't believe we wouldn't see the benefit of this,'' Mesnard told fellow Republicans.
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This legislation changes the percentage for all to one-sixth of one percent of the total voter registration, or 618.
"It's not fair, or even potentially positive or productive,'' Hess said, calling the provision "petty political games.''
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, a key proponent of the change, said it's only fair that all candidates have the same hurdle to get nominated.
Hess said even if Farnsworth's intentions were not to cripple the minor parties, all that is irrelevant.
"I can't imagine trying to win elections like this,'' Hess said.
The Libertarians are not alone. Angel Torres, chairman of the Arizona Green Party, also registered his objections.
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D.J. Quinlan, chairman of the Arizona Democratic Party, said his organization might finance a referendum to take the issue to voters. And Rep. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, said a legal challenge remains possible, not only to this provision but other changes in the law including alterations to procedures for early ballots.
This legislation is still subject to Department of Justice Voting Rights Act preclearance -- at leat until the U.S. Supreme Court rules on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act (perhaps as early as tomorrow morning).
The non-GOP political parties need their lawyers to work together in cooperation to file a legal challenge to this GOP Voter Suppression Act. A dual track with a citizens refrendum is also something to explore.