By Charlie Parke
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
Governor Jane Brewer recently signed Arizona HB2305 which will potentially remove many voters and make initiatives harder. Who writes these sorts of laws – the Arizona legislature or Murphy, asked an anonymous Occupy protester. Murphy’s Law states that anything that can go wrong, will but it is often used to describe unlikely situations that exist only because someone made “crazy” rules. One example is in the Parker Brothers game Clue, the player may end up finding clues they are a murder and can win by proving this to the other players-presumably they are next arrested.
The House Bill seeks to remove inactive voters from the permanent early voting list. An inactive voter is considered someone who has missed voting in two federal elections. When this occurs the county recorder sends a form, presumably by mail, to determine if the voter will remain on the list. The voter then has thirty days to respond. This presents concerns for those who move often – such as families who have had their home foreclosed on or poorer residents- so their mail may not always reach them quickly. Another concern is whether voters will have a choice to mail a ballot back or use a polling place. Both options have previously been allowed but this bill has been suggested to require committing to one or the other well in advance. The text in question reads “By signing this form you are agreeing to receive an early ballot for every election in which you are eligible to vote. You are informing the recorder that you do not wish to vote at your assigned polling location for all elections. If you would like to vote at your assigned polling location, do not sign this form.”
Groups like Citizens for a Better Arizona (CBA) have often collected ballots during campaigns to remove Sheriff Arpaio and Russell Pearce from office. This has led to a surge of ballots turned in because volunteers have gone out into the communities to collect ballots from the elderly, people whose work schedules make it difficult to get to a polling place and others who they have met while campaigning. Groups like this seem to be banned from picking up ballots. The bill text reads:
“G. A voter may designate any person to return the ballot to the elections official from whom it came or to the precinct board at a polling place within the county except that no early ballot shall be collected or returned by either of the following:
1. Any paid or volunteer worker of any political committee as defined in section 16-901…..
2. Any other group or organization on whose behalf an individual is directed to collect or return the ballot.”
The changes to the initiative process have many groups seeking lawyers to interpret the new rules and requirements. One requirement deals with a petition serial number, as described in the bill text here.
“When the application is received by the secretary of state and marked by the secretary of state with an official time and date of receipt, the time‑and‑date-marked text that accompanied the application constitutes the official copy of the text of the measure or constitutional amendment and shall be used in all instances as the text of the measure or constitutional amendment. For any subsequent change in the text of the measure or constitutional amendment by the applicant, the applicant shall file a new application and text, shall be assigned a new official serial number and shall use as the text of the measure or constitutional amendment the time‑and-date-marked text that accompanied the new application.”
The next change to the initiative process seems to come in requiring time and date marked copies or signatures will be invalidated. HB2305 states “The secretary of state’s time‑and‑date-marked copy of the measure or constitutional amendment with its proposed text set out in full with the original and the amended text constitutes the full and correct copy and is the only valid copy of the title and text of the measure for circulation for signatures. Signatures that are collected with any copy of the measure or constitutional amendment that is not a facsimile of the time‑and‑date-marked copy with title and text that is identical to the time‑and‑date-marked copy are invalid.”
Those individuals working on the petition must organize the sheets collected in a new system. If not organized correctly the petitions are considered not to have been filed. The bill text reads:
“The political committee that files the petitions shall organize the signature sheets and group them by the county of residence of the majority of the persons signing that signature sheet, by circulator on that signature sheet and by the notary public who notarized the circulator’s signature on that sheet. The secretary of state may return as unfiled any signature sheets that are not so organized and grouped. Before making the determination that the petitions were improperly organized and therefore not filed, the secretary of state shall make a reasonable cause finding pursuant to section 16‑924 that the committee failed to comply with this section and shall refer the matter to the attorney general pursuant to section 16‑924. The attorney general may then issue a compliance order directing the committee to reorganize the petitions in the proper organization or grouping. Any reorganization required under this section does not extend the time for filing. The political committee that is the proponent of the petition is solely responsible for compliance with this subsection.”
New rules governing criminal records check for petitions circulators are listed in the bill, per the following.
“Any political committee may submit to the secretary of state forty‑five days before the deadline for filing its petition a list of all petition circulators who circulated that petition and a copy of a criminal records check verified through source documents performed on each petition circulator by an entity licensed to do so under title 32, chapter 24 or similarly licensed in another state. If the background check was performed and provided by a person or entity who was engaged in an arm’s length transaction with the committee, including any of its employees, vendors, contractors or subcontractors, a rebuttable presumption arises and in any challenge to those petition circulators, the presumption must be overcome by a showing of a preponderance of the evidence that the circulator was not eligible to register to vote in this state. The secretary of state may adopt by rule appropriate standards for determining whether a transaction between a political committee, its employees, vendors, contractors and subcontractors and the person or entity providing the circulators’ background checks constitutes an arm’s length transaction. For the purposes of this subsection:
1. “Affiliate” means parties that are related by blood or marriage, employment or agency, or, in the case of entities, that are under direct or indirect common control or one of which controls the other.
2. “Arm’s length transaction” means an agreement to provide a criminal records check negotiated between a willing committee, including any of its employees, vendors, contractors or subcontractors and a willing entity licensed under title 32, chapter 24 or similarly licensed in another state where the parties are not affiliates.”
Another section of the bill addresses recalls, possibly a direct response to the attempt to Recall Sheriff Arpaio by Respect Arizona earlier this year. New language added to govern recalls reads:
“The legislature finds and determines that strict compliance with the application and enforcement of the constitutional and statutory requirements for recall provides the surest method for safeguarding the integrity and accuracy of the recall process. Therefore, the legislature declares that the constitutional and statutory requirements for recall be strictly construed and that persons using the recall process strictly comply with those constitutional and statutory requirements.
When the application is received by the filing officer and marked by the filing officer with an official date and time of receipt, the time‑and‑date‑marked application, including the general statement required by section 19-203, constitutes the official copy of the text of the recall and shall be used in all instances as the text of the recall. For any subsequent change in the text of the recall by the applicant, including any change in the general statement required by section 19-203, the applicant shall file a new application, shall receive a new official serial number and shall use as the text of the recall the time-and-date-marked text that accompanied the new application.
The filing officer’s time‑and‑date-marked copy of the application, including the general statement of the grounds for recall, constitutes the full and correct copy of the recall text and is the only valid copy for circulation for signatures. Signatures that are collected with any copy of the recall text that is not a facsimile of the time‑and‑date‑marked copy with the complete text that is identical to the time‑and‑date-marked copy are invalid.”
Gail Mokry Shoultes of Working Democrats has this to say about the bill, “I don’t call this new law the ‘Voter Suppression Law’; I call it the ‘Voter Responsibility Law’. As voters we should be informed about being signed up for PEVL and how your early vote has to be cast in order not to cause a provisional ballot. I don’t think you should EVER give your ballot to anyone since it is so easy and free to return yourself. The criticism I have is for the local Democratic Party and the Latino leadership in the AZ legislature. They are sending a message that the Latinos must be coddled and handfed in order for them to vote. They say ballots must be collected by the tens of thousands in order for Latinos to be heard. I say bologna! They need to educate their community not micromanage their ballots.”
Many are asking who will be helped by these changes. The number of voters is predicted to decrease, political initiatives and recalls will require more time, effort and careful rule following. Karen Bravo, Co-Chair of Respect Arizona states “I certainly do think it’s a response to the efforts to recall Sheriff Arpaio and to stop any further efforts to recall others. If you remember at the beginning of the recall campaign Rep. John Kavanagh introduced a bill that would have retroactively affected recalls — all to save his buddy, Arpaio. They are chipping away at the rights of the citizens of Arizona to be heard, to have a voice – it’s wrong.”