Voting-Rights Groups Demand That Lawmakers Let Arizonans Vote on New Elections Law

Get this: Arizona voters want to vote.

After Arizona's Republican-led Legislature passed a series of elections changes in one bill last year, it hardly took any time for non-Republican groups to band together and collect enough voter signatures to put the issue on the ballot.

Republican lawmakers are now working to repeal those election-law changes in House Bill 2305, which they just passed last year. The groups that have been working to kill the law see the obvious ploy -- they're repealing their bill so the voters don't do it for them, and those same lawmakers can pass those same election laws in a series of bills, instead of as one.

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

That's why dozens of people were at the Capitol today demanding that Senate President Andy Biggs or House Speaker Andy Tobin pledge not to allow the passage of the same provisions they just recently passed and now plan to repeal.

Provisions of the law include requiring minor-party candidates to get the same number of signatures as Democrats or Republicans to get on the ballot, creating a way for elections officials to remove people from the "permanent" early-voting list, and making it a crime to deliver someone's ballot to the polls -- a tactic that just so happened to be used in the successful recall of Republican Senate President Russell Pearce -- among other things.

During committee hearings and elsewhere, Republican lawmakers have maintained that they're simply succumbing to the will of the voters by going forward with the repeal -- yet no one has come forward to promise that the bill won't be broken up into pieces and passed again. (One Republican lawmaker admitted to the Arizona Capitol Times that passing the bills again is actually the plan.)

Meanwhile, if they did leave it up to voters, and the voters demolished HB 2305, then it seems that the Arizona Voter Protection Act might apply, which could prevent the lawmakers from passing these provisions again.

And that's what had people from the dozen-plus organizations in the Protect Your Right to Vote Coalition on the lawn at the Capitol today calling on leadership to let the people vote.

Julie Erfle, chairwoman of the coalition, said they want guarantees from Biggs and Tobin that the bills won't come back. The state Libertarian Party's Barry Hess said this kind of political maneuvering is why Arizona's "gone downhill."

Meanwhile, Randy Parraz, president of Citizens for a Better Arizona -- which spearheaded the Pearce recall -- set fire to a copy of HB 2305.

"Do we have rights as citizens?" he asked. "Do our votes matter? That's what this is about."

Parraz said lawmakers "can't ignore 144,000 [people] when they stand up."

Opponents of HB 2305, including some Democratic lawmakers, then grabbed some boxes symbolizing boxes of petition signatures, and made attempts to deliver them to Biggs' and Tobin's offices.

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Matthew Hendley
Contact: Matthew Hendley