“There have been irregularities in our elections, sometimes even fraud, but never to an extent that it affected the outcome. We should all be proud of that, and respect the decision of the majority even when we disagree with it. Especially when we disagree with it.”
Sen. John McCain
McCain would be ashamed of some things going on at the Arizona Legislature – actions being taken in the name of addressing alleged election fraud.
The traditional, good-faith practices of finding better candidates and developing better policies and ideas to appeal to more voters are being cast aside for a dispiriting, anti-democratic effort to pass laws that hinder – rather than promote – voter participation.
The Arizona Citizens’ Clean Elections Commission is a nonpartisan organization created by voters when they passed the Citizens Clean Elections Act in 1998.
In passing the act, the voters identified two critical concepts. First, the intent of the act was to “encourage citizen participation in the political process.” A second intent is “to improve the integrity of Arizona state government and promote public confidence in the Arizona political process.”
The act also creates the Citizens Clean Elections Commission consisting of five commissioners. Currently there are two Republicans, two Democrats and an independent. The commission is nonpartisan and it works to implement the intent of the act.
As commissioners, when we observe a concerted and focused effort to make it more difficult for Arizonans to vote and participate in the political process, that is something we are obligated to oppose.
We see that happening now.
Many members of our Legislature want to keep perceived unfriendly voters out of the election process.
There are numerous bills in this session of the Arizona Legislature that make it more difficult for Arizonans to vote and they lack the integrity of fair and robust elections.
We oppose these bills.
These bills address early voting procedures and voter registration, the favored voting procedure in Arizona, as about 80% of Arizona voters prefer to vote by mail.
However, those who cast early ballots are a major source of concern for some of our Arizona legislators.
Most of those early voters receive an early ballot automatically because they signed up for the Permanent Early Voter List, or PEVL. But proposed legislation is aimed at removing names from PEVL and making it more difficult to vote early. These bills include:
HB 2560: Would remove Arizonans from the PEVL if they didn’t use their early ballot in one general election. If you change your mind and vote at the polls, or misplace your early ballot and vote at the polls, then you are off the PEVL until you sign up again.
SB 1485: Would remove Arizonans from the PEVL if they don’t vote an early ballot in two consecutive primary and general elections. This bill targets independents who frequently skip voting in a primary because they incorrectly assume the primary is open only to voters registered with a political party.
SB 1003: Would require that voters who forget to sign their early ballot would have only until 7 p.m. on Election Day to fix the error. People who vote ballots that are not early have five more days to correct such errors.
SB 1593: Early ballots would go out five days later than now. And they would have to be returned earlier – postmarked the Thursday before the election, compared with the current rule that they have to be received by 7 p.m. Election Day. The effect is to give people less time to cast an early ballot.
SB 1713: Instead of just signing their early ballot to prove their identity, voters would have to provide an affidavit with their date of birth and driver’s license number. If they don’t have that, they have to provide their voter registration number or a copy of something showing their address.
Legislators also want to make it more difficult to register to vote:
SB 1358: Would prohibit county recorders from registering voters anyplace that is not government property. This negatively impacts the ability to reach out to register voters where they live, such as isolated Native American reservations or rural communities.
There are many more bills that seek to make it more difficult to register and vote for no legitimate reason. There is simply no basis for a democratic form of government to actively attempt to limit a citizen’s right to vote. This is unconscionable.
We want to make one thing crystal clear – our opposition is not political. We are charged with standing up for the rights of Arizona voters. That is our only concern.
We want voting in Arizona to continue to be safe, secure and convenient – free of contrived barriers designed to make voting more difficult. Elections must be won or lost based on candidates and their ideas – not on who successfully navigates a maze of unfair and unnecessary rules.
Please take the time to give these bills some thought, develop your own opinions and contact your legislator with your position. In other words, we encourage you to participate in the political process and to help improve the integrity of our elections.
Mark Kimble of Tucson is a retired journalist and registered independent. Damien Meyer of Phoenix is an attorney and registered Democrat. Both are appointed members of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission.