It’s official: Arizonans won’t get the last word on a series of controversial changes in state election law. Without comment, Gov. Jan Brewer signed legislation Thursday to repeal the 2013 law. More to the point, by repealing the law the governor killed the referendum drive that had held up enactment until the voters made the final decision. Democratic lawmakers who opposed the 2013 law sought to keep the referendum on the ballot, saying voters deserved to have their say. Foes of the changes gathered more than 146,000 signatures on petitions to put the law on “hold” pending the election. But Democrats also were interested in attracting voters to the polls in November who objected to the changes forced through by the Republican-controlled Legislature. That included limiting who can take someone else’s early ballot to polling places, erecting some new procedural hurdles in the path of citizens proposing their own laws, and requiring minor parties to get far more signatures to get their candidates on the ballot.
Republicans responded that they were simply obeying the will of voters who made it clear they did not like one or more portions of the 2013 law. But what concerns those who were opposed to the original law and gathered the signatures to put the question to voters is the chance of an end-run by Republicans.
With the 2013 law and the referendum now dead, that frees the GOP majority to reenact all or part of what was in the original law.
Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, who led the repeal effort, said he had no plans to do so. But Farnsworth could not make that promise for other Republicans. And even House Speaker Andy Tobin said he believes that some portions of what was in that 2013 law, like allowing county officials to remove some people from the permanent early voting list, may have merit.