Editorials: Arizona’s costly effort to solve non-existent problem | EJ Montini/AZ Central

On behalf of Gov. Jan Brewer, Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett (none of whom actually asked for my help) I called Sam Wercinski, Executive Director of Arizona Advocacy Network, and demanded that he stop trying prevent these three fine elected officials from wasting ungodly amounts of taxpayer money on a problem that does not exist. By which I mean – voter fraud. Last week, a two-judge panel from the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked the implementation of voter suppression laws in Arizona and Kansas. The laws essentially go beyond the federal voter registration form, requiring those who register to provide proof of citizenship. Wercinski’s organization, along with the Inter Tribal Council of Arizona, LULAC and State Senator Steve Gallardo has been fighting the law, which led to the state’s plan to create and implement a completely unnecessary and wildly expensive two-track voting system. All for the few and far between cases of voter fraud. “The 10th circuit did a good thing,” Wercinski told me. “But the state seems intent on fighting this ridiculous fight anyway.” Arizona already has spent a ton of money on what top officials pretend to be a voter-fraud problem. They know the problem doesn’t exist. But claiming that it does plays really, really well with some voters.

Arizona: Brewer signs bill limiting authority of Citizens Clean Election Commission | Associated Press

A bill preventing the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission from investigating possible campaign contribution violations by candidates who don’t participate in the program has been signed by Gov. Jan Brewer. Senate Bill 1344 allows only the Secretary of State and state Attorney General to investigate. The Republican governor signed the bill Thursday. It passed the GOP-controlled Legislature this week mainly along party-line votes.

Arizona: Governor signs bill to repeal 2013 election reform law, kills referendum | Arizona Capitol Times

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.

Arizona: Hearing on bill repealing new election law delayed | Arizona Daily Star

A hearing on a bill repealing a sweeping 2013 election law that galvanized voter’s rights groups, Democrats, some conservative Republicans and third-party candidates was cancelled Thursday. But the delay is expected to be short as majority Republicans agree the repeal is needed. The bill was held in the House Judiciary Committee in part to ensure its language matches other repeal bills being readied, but it will be back on the agenda next Thursday. Once the bills match up, quick passage by each chamber could send them to Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk for action in just weeks, Senate President Andy Biggs said. “We’re just looking for certainty, as soon as possible,” Biggs said. The repeal of last year’s House Bill 2305 is designed to head off a voter referendum set for November’s ballot. The election-overhaul law was cobbled together from several GOP bills on the last day of last year’s Legislative session and passed without a single Democratic vote by the Republican majority.

Arizona: Illegal immigrant vote-fraud cases rare in Arizona | Arizona Republic

Arizona has spent enormous amounts of time and money waging war against voter fraud, citing the specter of illegal immigrants’ casting ballots. State officials from Gov. Jan Brewer to Attorney General Tom Horne to Secretary of State Ken Bennett swear it’s a problem. At an August news conference, Horne and Bennett cited voter-fraud concerns as justification for continuing a federal-court fight over state voter-ID requirements. And some Republican lawmakers have used the same argument to defend a package of controversial new election laws slated to go before voters in November 2014. But when state officials are pushed for details, the numbers of actual cases and convictions vary and the descriptions of the alleged fraud become foggy or based on third-hand accounts.

Arizona: DNC targets Arizona election-law overhaul | AZ Central

National Democrats will support the fight to overturn a controversial election-law overhaul signed by Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer, Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Debbie Wasserman Schultz said Friday. Wasserman Schultz called the Arizona legislation, House Bill 2305, an attempt at intimidation and an example of “Republican efforts to do everything they can to throw obstacles in the path of voters who simply want an opportunity to cast their ballot and exercise their right to vote.” An effort to refer the state law to the ballot is under way. “We’re organizing here and across the country to fight voter-suppression efforts at every turn,” Wasserman Schultz told The Arizona Republic. “Where lawsuits are necessary, we’ll engage in them. We are providing staff and resources on the ground and working with allied groups to fight these voter-suppression efforts.”

Editorials: Arizona leading bad national trend to restrict voting rights. | Baja Arizona Eagle

Media outlets recently dubbed North Carolina’s sweeping new voter restriction legislation the “worst in the nation.” But Arizona’s new roadblocks to get tough on voters — House Bill 2305 — is in many ways worse than North Carolina because it was approved on top of some of the nation’s most restrictive voting laws already in place, said Julie Erfle, Chairwoman of the Protect Your Right To Vote Arizona Committee. Erfle is leading a broad and diverse coalition working together to overturn HB2305 through a voter referendum. HB 2305 helps career politicians rig the system by preventing tens of thousands of eligible voters from casting their ballots. The bill will kick people off the early voter rolls and make it a felony for volunteer groups to help elderly, homebound and economically disadvantaged voters get their early voting ballots to the polls. It also helps politicians hold onto power by keeping third parties off the ballot and making it extremely difficult for Arizonans to overturn the Legislature’s decisions through citizen initiatives.

National: Redistricting Wars – The hidden story of the 2012 elections | City Journal

Every ten years, after the U.S. Census releases its latest population reports, most of the 50 states begin the complicated process of drawing new election districts. As you might expect, partisan bickering and maneuvering inevitably distort things. So a decade ago, Arizona voters decided to end the partisanship by removing the redistricting process from the state legislature and placing it in the hands of an independent commission. Last year, the new commission, consisting of two Democrats, two Republicans, and a nonpartisan chair, got to work on its first set of maps after the 2010 census. Unfortunately, the results were anything but nonpartisan. The independent chair sided consistently with the two Democrats, essentially giving them control over the makeup of the congressional and state legislative maps. Lawsuits were launched, along with a push by Arizona’s Republican governor, Jan Brewer, to impeach the chair. The new maps, if let stand, “could reshape the state’s political landscape” in the Democrats’ favor, the Arizona Republic reported. Already, state lawmakers are looking at doing away with the commission or significantly changing it.

Arizona: Opponents try to force vote on election changes | Associated Press

A group opposed to a new law overhauling the early voting process in Arizona and making it more difficult for third-party candidates to get on the ballot has filed for a citizen’s referendum. The Protect Your Right to Vote Committee filed the referendum on Monday. If it collects 86,405 valid signatures by Sept. 12 the law will be put on hold until the November 2014 general election.

Arizona: Foes vow to fight new ballot qualification requirements | AZ Central

Libertarian Barry Hess said he’s determined to run for governor next year, even though he’ll face a 4,380 percent increase in the number of signatures he’ll need to qualify for the ballot. For Democrats, it’s a 9.8 percent increase. Meanwhile, any Republican seeking the seat will have a 5.8 percent decrease in the signature requirement. The shifting numbers are due to a late addition to a wide-ranging election bill that Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law last week. The measure was favored by Republicans, who flexed some local and national muscle to revive House Bill 2305 in the waning hours of the recently completed legislative session.

Arizona: Democrats criticize voting law they say helps the Republican Party | The Explorer

Gov. Jan Brewer penned her approval Wednesday to a series of changes in voting laws that Democrats and others say are designed to give her Republican Party an edge in future elections. The legislation, which will take effect later this year, sets up a procedure to stop sending early ballots to voters who have not used them in two election cycles. Rep. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, said the people this is most likely to affect are voters who are newly signed up through registration drives, voters who, at least initially, may be less in the habit of voting. And those voters, he said, are most likely Democrats. That contention is disputed by Sen. Michele Regan, R-Scottsdale. She said the highest number of people who have ignored their early ballots — and would be subject to no longer getting them in the mail — are in her Scottsdale legislative district. But Reagan conceded the reason for this could be the high number of home foreclosures in the district, with ballots mailed to people who are no longer there.

Arizona: Bill makes qualifying harder for minor-party candidates | AZ Central

Libertarians and Green Party candidates would be virtually cut off from running for office under new nominating-petition requirements in a bill now on Gov. Jan Brewer’s desk. Meanwhile, the legislation eases the number of signatures needed for Republican and Democratic candidates. On Tuesday, critics of the law said it’s a valentine for Republican candidates, who see third-party candidates, particularly Libertarians, as spoilers in races. The provision was tacked onto a wide-ranging election bill, House Bill 2305, one week before the Legislature adjourned. It passed on largely partyline votes in the closing hours of the session with the support of most Republicans and solid opposition from Democrats. On Tuesday, the minor-party officials said the bill, if signed, would cement the two parties’ hold on Arizona elections.

Arizona: Senate passes election overhaul bill | Arizona Daily Star

The Arizona Senate revived an election omnibus bill Thursday that could limit early voting participation after Republican leaders pressured their caucus to pass the measure in the final hours of the 2013 legislative session. The legislation backed by state and local election officials seeks to trim the state’s permanent early voting list and limit who may return mail ballots for voters. Opponents portrayed the bill as a thinly-veiled effort to curb Democratic and Hispanic voter turnout. The 16-13 vote came after the Senate initially voted against the bill late Thursday. Republican Sen. Steve Pierce changed his vote and helped the measure pass when it was brought back for reconsideration. The House voted 33-26 earlier on Thursday to advance House Bill 2305. Republican Gov. Jan Brewer would not say on Thursday whether she would sign the measure into law.

Arizona: Fixes for consolidated elections stall, leaving cities in dark about when to hold elections | Arizona Capitol Times

When voters in Tucson and Phoenix went to the polls to elect their mayors in 2011, voters elected them for four years. But a bill passed last year by the Legislature and signed into law by Gov. Jan Brewer may extend the mayors’ time in office by a year. Or it may shorten their terms by a year. Nobody is sure which one it will be. After seeing the savings and the boost in voter turnout Scottsdale achieved from moving its election dates to the fall of even-numbered years to match the state election cycle, Rep. Michelle Ugenti of Scottsdale sponsored a bill to move all city elections to coincide with the state schedule.

Arizona: Proposal would flood money into politics | Associated Press

Arizona Republican lawmakers are poised to wildly increase the state’s campaign finance limits in an effort that would allow an unprecedented flood of private dollars into local elections and undermine the state’s public campaign financing system. Republicans said current limits are unconstitutionally low, especially given the growing influence of outside political advertisements in national and state campaigns made possible by a 2010 Supreme Court ruling that erased years of campaign finance law. But Democrats argued the measure would give wealthy donors and political groups more influence in campaigns while effectively dismantling the state’s public financing options approved by voters. The bill would not increase funding for candidates running under the state’s public campaign financing option.

Arizona: Governor Brewer nixes plan for election law special session | TriValley Central

Gov. Jan Brewer late Friday dropped a plan to hold a special session to present Arizona voters with a second ballot measure on proposed changes to election laws, according to a Brewer spokesman who said legislative leaders had changed their minds. Republican legislative leaders and Brewer earlier had agreed to hold a special session to consider a possible referendum that was a reaction to a recently filed initiative measure. The initiative measure would make major changes in how Arizona conducts primary elections. It will go on the November ballot if election officials determine that backers submitted enough petition signatures. Word of the planned special session surfaced earlier Friday, a day after initiative backers filed their petitions.

Arizona: GOP alternative to open primary initiative falls apart; Brewer lacks votes for special session | East Valley Tribune

Plans by Republicans to craft their own alternative to an open primary initiative blew apart late Friday as some party members balked. Matthew Benson, press aide to Gov. Jan Brewer, said his boss believes there is a key weakness in the proposal submitted Thursday to go on the November ballot: It would allow candidates to run for office without disclosing their party affiliation. Benson said letting people hide their true party affiliation would allow candidates to “game” the system. He said that could give a leg up to Democrats in heavily Republican areas like Mesa — and vice versa in Tucson — as many voters cast their ballots based largely on a candidate’s party. So Brewer was prepared to call a special session for this week to offer an alternative to the initiative, one that kept the essence of the “open primary” but with the disclosure requirement. But Sen. Frank Antenori, R-Tucson, said that was not the deal sought by many fellow GOP lawmakers. So they refused to go along, leaving the Brewer-preferred modification without the votes.

Arizona: Phoenix fights law dictating election years | azcentral.com

Phoenix is preparing to sue the state to block a new law that would force Arizona cities and towns to hold elections in the fall in the same years as state general elections. City Council members who want to challenge the law say it infringes on the city’s authority to control its own affairs and govern based on its city charter. Some are also worried about the unintended consequences of the law, such as forcing sitting council members to serve at least a year longer than their elected terms to comply with the legislation. If Phoenix follows through with the suit, the League of Arizona Cities and Towns and other municipalities likely will add their support, league officials said. But not all council members agree with a legal challenge. Some question why the city should fight legislation aimed at increasing voter turnout and saving taxpayers money.

Arizona: New state law could alter future election dates in city, county | Mohave Daily News

A bill signed by the Arizona governor that would consolidate elections could impact city and county elections in Mohave County. Gov. Jan Brewer signed into law House bill HB-2826 that would consolidate elections effective in 2014. The goal of the bill was to increase voter turnout and to reduce the cost of an election. Bullhead City will hold elections for four council members with the primary in March 2013 and the runoff election in May 2013. The new council members will serve 31⁄2-year terms with the next primary and general elections for those seats to be held in August and November 2016. After the 2013 election, Bullhead City as well as Kingman and Lake Havasu City will hold elections in the fall along with state and national elections, Bullhead City Clerk Sue Stein said.

Arizona: Cities, counties urge Governor to veto consolidated Arizona elections bill | Arizona Capitol Times

Dozens of local and county officials are asking Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill that would force cities to consolidate their election dates with the state. The officials appealed to Brewer’s background as a county supervisor and secretary of state, asking her to help cities maintain local control of their elections. They argued that HB2826 would stamp out local control, politicize non-partisan elections and increase election costs. HB2826 would force all cities in Arizona to hold their primary and general elections for candidates in even-numbered years beginning in 2014, at the same time as state and federal elections. Twenty-seven county election officials signed a letter to Brewer, urging her to veto the bill. At least 40 of the 76 municipalities that would be affected, along with the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, also sent letters to the governor, according to Ken Strobeck, the league’s executive director.

Arizona: Bill limiting local election dates goes to Governor | Arizona Daily Star

Insisting they know better, state lawmakers voted Monday to limit local elections to just two days every two years. HB 2826 says, with only a few exceptions, cities, counties, school districts and other government entities could have their elections only at the same time as the state. That means the same days as the statewide primary, which usually occurs in late August, and the general election in November. The 32-28 House vote came over the objections of lawmakers from both parties who questioned why the state should overrule what local communities have decided. “Local rule is still the best rule,” complained Rep. Cecil Ash, R-Mesa. It also presages a legal fight.

Arizona: Special election set for June 12 to fill Giffords’ seat | chicagotribune.com

Arizona Governor Jan Brewer on Friday ordered a special general election to be held on June 12 to fill a congressional seat vacated by Tucson Democrat Gabrielle Giffords, who resigned to focus on recovering from a gunshot wound to the head. The Republican governor also set an April 17 primary to choose the candidates who will vie to replace Giffords in what has proved to be a highly competitive district in southern Arizona. Giffords left office on Wednesday, cutting short her third term representing Arizona’s 8th congressional district as she continues to recover from a gunshot wound that left her with faltering speech and physical impairments.

Arizona: Federal Voting Rights Act is Arizona’s redistricting bogeyman | Caveat Lector

We should find out next week if Gov. Jan Brewer will make good on her threats from this week and impeach Colleen Mathis, the chairwoman of the Independent Redistricting Commission, or any other member of the commission. Brewer alleges gross misconduct by the commission, including failing to follow requirements of the independent redistricting commission act, bid rigging and open meetings law violations. Commissioners deny any wrongdoing.

Brewer is picking the wrong fight. The problem is not the commission, it’s Section 5 of the federal Voting Rights Act that requires Arizona to get the blessing of the U.S. Justice Department on any change it makes to voting districts, a process called preclearance. The Act’s intentions nearly 50 years ago was to right 100 years of wrongs in several states that imposed restrictions on voting by racial minorities, mostly southern blacks.

Arizona: Russell Pearce recall: State’s high court to consider appeal | Arizona Republic

The Arizona Supreme Court will decide whether the Nov. 8 recall election for Senate President Russell Pearce will go forward. The high court on Wednesday agreed to consider the appeal in the case challenging the recall signatures.

Both sides had requested the hearing in hopes of speeding up the process instead of allowing the Arizona Court of Appeals to consider it first. Time is of the essence. A decision needs to be made by Sept. 23, when the state has to begin printing ballots.

The Supreme Court said that it will not hear oral arguments and that the justices will make a decision behind closed doors on Sept. 13. They will base their decision on written arguments.

National: Repealing the Voting Rights Act | Technorati

The State of Arizona and its Republican Governor Jan Brewer received a lot of negative press and garnered national attention last year over its immigration legislation that allowed for racial profiling. It also drew the attention of the Obama administration and the Department of Justice (DOJ). Last week, Arizona filed a lawsuit challenging the Voting Rights Act of 1965 (VRA). Arizona’s Republican Attorney General Tom Horne said that the requirement for the state to get prior approval from the DOJ for any changes to the state’s election laws is unconstitutional.

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder responded to the Arizona suit that the Voting Rights Act is vital to ensure that “every American has the right to vote and have that vote counted.” Holder added, “The provisions challenged in this case, including the preclearance requirement, were reauthorized by Congress in 2006 with overwhelming and bipartisan support.” Holder said the DOJ “will continue to enforce the Voting Rights Act, including each of the provisions challenged today.”

Arizona: Brewer calls Nov. 8 recall election for Pearce | Arizona Republic

Barring a legal challenge, Senate President Russell Pearce, R-Mesa, will face recall election on Nov. 8.

Pearce, one of the state’s most powerful and controversial politicians, released a statement late Tuesday afternoon saying that he told Gov. Jan Brewer that he was in support of her calling the election this fall. It is believed to be the first recall election of a state legislator in Arizona history.

Pearce made it clear in his statement that he has no intention of resigning his office, as some of his detractors have suggested.