Grass root Republican precinct committeemen are pushing hard for the Legislature to eliminate “ballot harvesting” by use of “proxies” at political party meetings and are frustrated that the chairman of the House Rules Committee, Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, refuses to place HB2012 on his committee meeting agenda. The bill would limit the number of proxies a single person can carry to state conventions for all political parties.
Proxies are used when a “state committeeman” cannot attend a state convention, and they sign a proxy authorizing another committeeman to cast a vote in their absence.
At the latest Republican state convention in January, 581 state committeemen were present. They carried 388 proxies. Nearly 45 percent of the votes to be cast were by proxies of those absent and multiple state committeemen were observed carrying as many as two dozen or more proxies each. This places extraordinary power and influence on a very few proxy carriers.
Proxies don’t require the absent committeemen to state a written vote position on the proxy, nor is the carrier required to consult with the signer before voting.
And, there are allegations that some county and legislative district chairmen recruit persons to run for election as a state committeeman with a pre-established understanding that they would not need to attend the state convention and the chairman would carry their proxy – with the sole intent to have power to influence a vote with multiple proxies.
The Arizona Republican Party held its election for state chairman at its state convention in January 2017. In a highly contested election, the state chairman who was elected won by just 34 votes. Many in attendance argue that just two or three proxy carriers unfairly swung that election, and the circumstances remain very contentious to many today.
That election was so contentious that a grass roots petition effort erupted among Republican precinct committeemen from around the state which has obtained nearly 900 signatures in support of limiting the use of proxies.
So, here’s why HB2012 should become law.
The Arizona Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee, spent millions of dollars winning a Supreme Court lawsuit protecting Arizona’s legislation prohibiting “ballot harvesting,” which had a well-documented history of misuse and voter fraud. The legislation brought enhanced honesty and integrity to the voting process.
The use of proxies by political parties has nearly the identical issues of misuse and voter fraud as was found in ballot harvesting.
The use of proxies also violates the “One person – One vote” principle so dear to the American voting process.
“Roberts Rules of Order” also prohibits use of proxies – stating that lack of participation in meetings is “nontransferable…”
The Arizona Legislature does not permit the use of proxies for the same reasons described above.
So, legislators, we fought hard to eliminate ballot harvesting fraud from the primary and general election process. Let’s insert the same honesty and integrity into the political party voting process.
— Gary P. Morris is chairman of the Gila County Republican Committee.
The views expressed in guest commentaries are those of the author and are not the views of the Arizona Capitol Times.