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“Arizona’s Voting Rights Fire Bell”: The Disenfranchisement Of Thousands Of Its Citizens

It’s bad enough that an outrage was perpetrated last week against the voters of Maricopa County, Ariz. It would be far worse if we ignore the warning that the disenfranchisement of thousands of its citizens offers our nation. In November, one of the most contentious campaigns in our history could end in a catastrophe for our democracy.

A major culprit would be the U.S. Supreme Court, and specifically the conservative majority that gutted the Voting Rights Act in 2013.

The facts of what happened in Arizona’s presidential primary are gradually penetrating the nation’s consciousness. In a move rationalized as an attempt to save money, officials of Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, cut the number of polling places by 70 percent, from 200 in the last presidential election to 60 this time around.

Maricopa includes Phoenix, the state’s largest city, which happens to have a non-white majority and is a Democratic island in an otherwise Republican county.

What did the cutbacks mean? As the Arizona Republic reported, the county’s move left one polling place for every 21,000 voters — compared with one polling place for every 2,500 voters in the rest of the state.

The results, entirely predictable, were endless lines akin to those that await the release of new iPhones. It’s an analogy worth thinking about, as there is no right to own an iPhone but there is a right to vote. Many people had to wait hours to cast a ballot, and some polling stations had to stay open long after the scheduled 7 p.m. closing time to accommodate those who had been waiting — and waiting. The Republic told the story of Aracely Calderon, a 56-year-old immigrant from Guatemala who waited five hours to cast her ballot. There were many voters like her.

Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton, whose government does not control election management, is furious about what was visited upon his city’s residents. The day after the primary, he wrote U.S. Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch asking her to open a Justice Department investigation into the fiasco. It was not just that there weren’t enough polling places, Stanton charged. Their allocation also was “far more favorable in predominantly Anglo communities.” There were fewer voting locations in “parts of the county with higher minority populations.”

In a telephone interview, Stanton made the essential point. Long lines are bad for everyone. But they particularly hurt the least advantaged, who usually have less flexibility in their schedules than more affluent people do. It is often quite literally true that poor voters can’t afford to wait.

“If you’re a single mother with two kids, you’re not going to wait for hours, you’re going to leave that line,” Stanton said. As a result, Stanton said, “tens of thousands of people were deprived of the right to vote.”

A Democrat, Stanton asked himself the obvious question: “Am I suggesting this was the intent of the people who run elections in Maricopa County?” His answer: “In voting rights terms, it doesn’t matter.” What matters, he said, is whether changes in practice “had a disparate impact on minority communities,” which they clearly did.

And there’s the rub. Before the Supreme Court undermined Voting Rights Act enforcement, radical changes in voting practices such as Maricopa’s drastic cut in the number of polling places would have been required to be cleared with the Justice Department because Arizona was one of the states the law covered. This time, county officials could blunder — let’s assume, for the sake of argument, that there was no discriminatory intent — without any supervision.

Now let’s look ahead to Election Day this fall. Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center for Justice, notes in his important new book, “The Fight to Vote,” that Republicans have “moved with strategic ferocity” to pass a variety of laws around the country to make it harder for people to cast ballots. The Brennan Center reports that 16 states “will have new voting restrictions in place for the first time in a presidential election.”

Imagine voting debacles like Arizona’s happening all across the country. Consider what the news reports would be like on the night of Nov. 8, 2016. Are we not divided enough already? Can we risk holding an election whose outcome would be rendered illegitimate in the eyes of a very large number of Americans who might be robbed of their franchise?

This is not idle fantasy. Arizona has shown us what could happen. We have seven months to prevent what really could be an electoral cataclysm.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, March 27, 2016

March 28, 2016 Posted by | Arizona, Democracy, Discrimination, Voter Suppression | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Ruling: No Corporate Donations For Russell Pearce In Arizona Recall Election

Senate President Russell Pearce will not be able to get financial help from corporations to keep him in office, at least not directly.

In a formal legal opinion, state Solicitor General David Cole rejected the contention of Lisa Hauser, an attorney who represents Pearce, that the prohibition on those donations that applies in regular candidate races is inapplicable in recall elections.

Cole said the law is clear that neither corporations nor unions can make contributions designed to “influence an election.’’ And he said a bid to oust a sitting legislator from office fits that definition.

Cole wrote the decision rather than Attorney General Tom Horne, who had recused himself because of his political ties to Pearce.

Under Arizona law, a formal opinion from the Attorney General’s Office can be cited as legal precedent, much like a court ruling. The fact that this opinion was signed by Cole and not Horne does not change that.

Hauser said a campaign committee formed to aid Pearce had accepted a small corporate check — she said it was about $1,200 —but returned it when state Elections Director Amy Bjelland questioned the legality of the move. It was Hauser who then sought the formal opinion.

“If that’s the AG’s opinion, unless we go to court to change it, it is what it is,’’ she said. But Hauser said that is unlikely to happen.

If nothing else, she said, the opinion clarifies that corporate and union money will be off limits not only to Pearce but to anyone who decides to run against him.

“We just want to make sure everybody’s playing by the same set of rules,’’ Hauser said.

But Cole pointed out there is a loophole of sorts in the law.

He noted that the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last year that corporations and unions have some of the same free-speech rights as individuals. While that does not disturb state or federal laws prohibiting contributions directly to candidates, there can be no laws which bar either type of organizations from forming or contributing to separate efforts to elect or defeat any particular candidate.

The only requirement is that these committees be completely independent of — and have no connection of any sort to — the candidate.

Randy Parraz, one of the recall organizers, said his committee has not accepted either corporate or union money. But Parraz will not disclose who paid for the successful petition drive, at least not yet.

“A lot of this has to do with people’s fear,’’ he said, intimating that those who helped with the recall might be the subject of some sort of unspecified retaliation. He said some people gave just $25 because the sources of contributions at that level and below do not need to be detailed.

“We’re going to comply,’’ he said. “We don’t feel compelled to have to disclose at this point.’’

Bjelland confirmed that for this unusual election — the first ever for a statewide or legislative office — the first campaign finance reports do not have to be filed until Oct. 27. That is only two weeks before the vote.

In a separate event Monday, Parraz attempted to deliver a letter to Pearce at his Senate office asking him to resign.

That is one option he has under state recall laws. The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors would then choose a replacement.

But Pearce said he has no intention of quitting and believes he will win the recall and be able to serve out the balance of his two-year term.

By: Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services, Published in East Valley Tribune.com, July 12, 2011

July 12, 2011 Posted by | Arizona, Conservatives, Corporations, Democracy, Elections, GOP, Government, Governors, Ideologues, Politics, Republicans, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Recall Arizona… From The 19th Century

The dictionary definition of insanity should be changed to spell A-R-I-Z-O-N-A and its state capitol building should be designated as a home for the criminally insane. But lest we kid ourselves, this Arizona insanity has now spread nationwide. Let’s take a tour of the [police] state.

On the educational front, Tucson Unified School Superintendent, John Pedicone, has managed to militarize school board meetings. He has done this because several weeks ago, the high school group UNIDOS, tired of having their Mexican American Studies program targeted for elimination, chained themselves to the school board members chairs, prompting the board to cancel its meeting. For this, the students and others have received death threats. At the subsequent May 3rd meeting, officially, some 100 police officers were deployed to the TUSD headquarters. However, on top of TUSD security guards, including those staffing metal detectors, along with bomb squad officers, helicopters, plus riot squad officers deployed inside and around the building and neighborhood, it is likely that the officers totaled closer to 200.

At this meeting, seven people were arrested for the criminal act of attempting to speak to the board. One elderly and disabled professor, Lupe Castillo, 69, was arrested by some 20 helmeted and shielded officers for attempting to read ”A Letter from the Birmingham Jail” by Martin Luther King Jr. The other arrestees were [secretly] sent to two jails before they were booked and released. In the action inside, dozens of riot squad police physically threw other people out the building, including elders, this while hundreds of MAS supporters outside stood their ground. Then later, the violence, caught on videotape, started behind the building. Police officers in full riot gear began throwing young students, parents and other community members around like rag dolls. Officially, the officers did a great job, commended by the chief of police.

All this is the calm before the storm, precipitated by a 2010 law (HB 2281), purportedly inspired by Martin Luther King Jr, that has declared the teaching of Ethnic Studies illegal. This week, an audit ordered by the state schools superintendent, John Huppenthal, who ran on the campaign to “eliminate La Raza” (the Mexican people) – is scheduled to be released, with expected pre-ordained findings that will declare Tucson’s highly successful MAS program to be out of compliance.

That’s from the sane part of the state. Now, from the insane sector:

This past week, the governor signed SB 1404, a law that attempts to wall the state from the rest of society. Not satisfied with the federal walls that line the U.S./Mexico border, Arizona will soon be embarking upon creating its own wall along the Arizona/Sonora border, financed through online donations and built by prison labor. Being that imprisoning migrants is a growing multi-billion dollar industry, look for the state to employ incarcerated migrants to attempt to build it.

Beyond the state’s 2010 (SB 1070) racial profiling law, this year, state legislators attempted to pass nearly two dozen even more stringent laws, including one that would overturn birthright citizenship as guaranteed by the 14th Amendment.  Legislators also attempted to pass two other laws that can only be construed as attempts to secede from humanity; SB 1443 and SCR 1010 were attempts to exempt the state from federal and international laws, respectively.

Most of this legislation is designed to incarcerate migrants and to enrich the private prison industry. The mastermind of most of this legislation is state senate president, Russell Pearce, who in addition to facing a recall, is also embroiled in the Fiesta Bowl “gift” scandal that threatens to bring down he and many of his associates.

And then there’s Maricopa County’s unindicted Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who continues to thumb his nose at the feds with his ongoing racially motivated mass dragnet raids. Recent investigations have found that in eight years, his department has misspent close to $100 million, and that his top commanders targeted “enemies,” confirming he is the most corrupt Sheriff in America. Federal investigations into his activities continue.

Outside of the state, the governor of Georgia recently signed HB 87, joining Arizona, Utah and Indiana in implementing anti-immigrant racial profiling laws. Twenty other states are pursuing a similar return to the 19th century. The good news is that Utah’s HB 497 anti-immigrant law, was recently blocked by a Utah judge, and the DREAM ACT has again been introduced in Congress.

Given recent dramatic events on the international front, it is generally thought that the president can now restore sanity and actually bring about actual immigration reform. Regarding Ethnic Studies, not sure he can do anything about those intent on “eliminating La Raza.”

By: Roberto Rodriguez, Professor, University of Arizona; CommonDreams.org, May 17, 2011

May 18, 2011 Posted by | Arizona, Bigotry, Class Warfare, Conservatives, Democracy, Equal Rights, GOP, Governors, Ideology, Immigrants, Immigration, Lawmakers, Politics, Racism, Right Wing, State Legislatures, States | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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