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Arizona's Voter Suppression Law: Referendum to Overturn HB 2305 Filed

Arizona Republicans remind me of the little Dutch boy sticking his finger in the dike, in this case, trying to keep the flood of Latino voters at bay.

Thankfully, the electorate is going to get a chance in 2014 to chop that finger clean off. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Monday, a coalition of groups billing itself as the Protect Your Right to Vote Committee filed notice with the Arizona Secretary of State's Office, seeking a referendum for the 2014 ballot to overturn Arizona's Voter Suppression Law, House Bill 2305.

Signed by Governor Jan Brewer, after, according to state Senator Steve Gallardo, she reneged on her promise to Dems to veto it, HB 2305 creates several barriers for electoral participation in an effort to maintain the GOP's hegemony over Arizona, even as the state's political sands shift.

See Also: Supreme Court: Voting Rights Act Can't Make Arizona Get Feds' Approval on Voting Laws Black and Latino Leaders in Phoenix Call on Congress to Restore Voting Rights Act

Impediments include requiring that all candidates get the same number of signatures to have their names placed on legislative, Congressional and statewide ballots. Members of minority parties would have a higher threshold, as a result.

HB 2305 makes it easier for elections officials to remove voters' names from the permanent early voter list, and criminalizes the simple act of picking up someone's early ballot and taking it to the polls, a tactic that was crucial for victory in the recall of disgraced two-time loser, ex-state Senate President Russell Pearce.

Also, the measure creates unnecessary hurdles for those circulating initiative, referendum and recall petitions.

The law has managed to tick off Democrats, African-Americans, Latinos, Libertarians, progressives, Greens, and just about everyone who is not a dyed-in-the-wool Republican.

As a result, it should be relatively easy to score the 86,405 valid signatures from qualified state electors needed by September 12, 2013.

I mean, this isn't the attempted recall of Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which needed 335,317 valid signatures from qualified county electors.

Rather, signature-gatherers in this effort have the entire pool of potential state voters to draw from.

Sure, organizers will need to obtain a hefty cushion of signatures to ensure success. But even a goal of double the required number is doable, considering how many voters are affected.

The organization's chosen a class act to chair the campaign: Julie Erfle, commentator and community activist, whose blog Politics Uncuffed has become a touchstone of moderation and common sense in Sand Land politics.

Erfle issued the following statement, which was quoted in the group's press release:

"House Bill 2305 was a blatant attempt by incumbent politicians to hold onto their power by taking out their competition and making it more difficult to vote.

"The Arizona electorate is growing more moderate, the Latino population is growing rapidly, but rather than listening to and engaging voters, the incumbent politicians are just hitting the snooze alarm to buy a little more time in power.

"It's not going to work. We have a short window of time, but I am extremely confident in our chances of not only getting on the ballot but of overturning House Bill 2305."

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court's disappointing 5-to-4 vivisection of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, we cannot rely on the courts to protect voting rights in this country from the scourge of a nearly all-white Republican Party, determined to remain in power for as long as possible.

What's needed are raw political victories over the GOP's haters. This will necessitate both a unified front with Republican-loathing allies, as well as an exponential increase in Latino voters, who currently do not participate in the political process at the same rate as Anglo and African-American voters.

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The Pew Research Center recently reported that while a record 11.2 million Latinos voted in 2012, 12.1 million eligible Latino voters did not do likewise.

Only 48 percent of eligible Latino voters cast ballots in 2012, while blacks cast ballots at a rate of 66.6 percent, and whites, 64.1 percent.

So any opportunity to encourage Latinos to register, to organize and to exercise their political muscle should be welcomed.

In that sense, HB 2305 will be the whip with which we can torment the tormentors, giving some tuskers their walking papers in 2014, as we kill this obscene overreach on the part of the state GOP.

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