It's not everyday that you see the chair of a state house committee mock a blind man in public, but, then, that's just the kind of guy state Representative Eddie Farnsworth is.
Indeed, the Gilbert Republitard and charter-school pimp has a well-earned reputation as a self-important, fatuous tool.
But he outdid himself recently, as the House Judiciary Committee he chairs heard GOP state Senator Michele Reagan's proposal to suppress brown voters, Senate Bill 1003, which would make it a felony for any paid or volunteer member of a group organized as a political committee to pick up an early ballot from a citizen and return it to county elections.
Stephen Lemons column
Little Lord Farnsworth's committee heard from a number of speakers for and against the proposal, including Sami Hamed, a legally blind man from Tucson who took the time to trek from the Old Pueblo for the hearing.
Hamed related that one of the consequences of this ass-backwards legislation would be to inconvenience people with disabilities, such as himself, who — like a lot of folks — like to hold on to their early ballots 'til close to Election Day to study the issues and make up their minds on how to vote.
But if a group organized as a political committee with the Secretary of State sent someone to pick up Hamed's ballot for him, that person would be committing a felony under Reagan's proposed legislation.
"Don't hurt people with disabilities, like me," Hamed testified, "who want to vote, who want to give [a ballot] to a person who wants to do the right thing, whether it's a third party or not, and turn in my vote. Don't criminalize them, and don't suppress me as a voter."
Certainly, such testimony is valuable, in that it brings to mind how those with disabilities would be affected.
But Farnsworth took pains, in the explanation of his "aye" vote, to kick sand in Hamed's face.
"I appreciate Sami being here," said Farnsworth, disingenuously. "He came from Tucson up to Phoenix — but he can't get on the bus to put a ballot in the mail?"
The joke going around is that Farnsworth's planning to kick an old woman's cane from her hand and steal candy from an orphan at his next committee hearing.
Farnsworth looks like the adult version of the kid who always was on the receiving end of wedgies in gym, the class dork who grew up to be a bigger dork and now longs to prove he's cock of the walk.
During the same hearing, Farnsworth browbeat a fellow Republican into changing her "nay" vote on the measure.
Representative Doris Goodale of Kingman expressed support for portions of SB 1003, but she initially voted against it, for very practical reasons.
"Living in an area that has a lot of remote parts to it," she explained, "working with the disabilities committee — boy, I just have some grave concerns about putting any barriers up for people who want to vote."
But before moving the bill, Farnsworth twice prompted Goodale to change her vote for lockstep, party-line approval.
Goodale caved, finally voting "aye."
She must've missed the memo on this one: Creating barriers is the whole point of this bill, and various others that local GOPers are looking to ramrod down the public's gullet.
It's all about protecting their hold on power, which is in danger should too many Latinos take part in the political process.
Latinos tend to vote Democratic, mainly because the white-as-rice Republican Party in this state has made it its mission to make them feel unwelcome. You'll recall the Republicans' ethnic-cleansing law, state Senate Bill 1070, which made "attrition through enforcement" public policy in Arizona.
It hasn't worked as well as its author, Farnsworth's wing-nut buddy, former state Senate President Russell Pearce, intended.
Though some of 1070 remains on the books, particularly the warlike reference to "attrition," the law boomeranged on Pearce and the Republicans, energizing Latinos like never before and helping the 2011 recall against Pearce to be a success.
Truly, Latino groups, like Promise Arizona, have gained ground by working within the system to change it.
During the 2011 recall, and in last year's election, an army of mostly young volunteers were mobilized.
Registered voters who were not casting ballots were targeted, and those on Maricopa County's Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) were contacted and encouraged to send in these ballots.
It sounds like a simple thing, mailing in a ballot. But a lot of people get the ballot and forget it. And if someone from a group they trust comes to their door, encourages them to fill it out, and offers to mail it or take it to the polling place for them, what's the harm?
The harm is to the Rs, natch. And while there were no big victories for Latino groups locally last year, organizations such as Adios Arpaio and others registered more than 36,000 new voters in Maricopa County alone.
The movement to recall Arpaio is poised to make similar gains.
For instance, the recall group Respect Arizona recently announced that it had signed up more than 5,000 new voters, many of them Hispanic, in the process of gathering 120,000 valid signatures for the recall.
When Latinos gain, Rs lose. Just ask Mitt Romney. More than 71 percent of Latino voters went for President Barack Obama in 2012, which is the main reason Republicans like U.S. Senator John McCain are scrambling to pass some form of comprehensive immigration reform.
Alas, here in the Land Time Forgot, the GOPers' embrace of Mexican-bashing has so alienated Latino voters that the tuskers' only hope is to buy themselves time.
That's why this session of the Legislature is awash with bills that harken back to the bad old days of segregation, when Southern Democrats resorted to poll taxes, literacy tests, and other then-legal shenanigans to bar African-Americans from voting.
There's one bill from Reagan that would strip voters from the PEVL list en masse. Another makes it more difficult for paid petition circulators to operate, and yet another creates campaign-finance limits for recall committees.
And, of course, there's the bill from human cockroach and Tebagger Representative Steve Smith, which would create a "recall primary," even though the proposal is blatantly unconstitutional and is intended only to save Sheriff Joe Arpaio from Latinos and others looking to oust him.
Nevertheless, Little Lord Farnsworth takes great umbrage at the implication that there's voter suppression afoot.
"I get awfully tired of hearing about the discriminatory intent of these bills," Farnsworth said at one point. "I'm not racist. I'm not biased."
The chairman doth protest too much.
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After all, this is the same Farnsworth who was once joined at the hip with Russell Pearce (the Mesa moron who befriended a neo-Nazi who wound up murdering a baby, among others, before committing suicide). This, in my book, is as good as donning a white sheet and barbecuing crosses by moonlight.
Farnsworth and his fellow Repugnuts fool no one with their denials. Their anti-brown agenda has been clear for years.
I've got news for them, though. That agenda is doomed to fail, even if they pass these new voter-suppression laws.
'Cause the brown folk ain't going anywhere. And they and their children will remember.