Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Monday, January 11, 2016

2016 #AZLEG Regular Session Begins -- The Beat Goes On?



Three Republican state lawmakers today launched the latest salvo against the rights of Arizona voters.

By introducing HCR2009, Reps. Warren Petersen and Kelly Townsend, with Sen. David Farnsworth, hope to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot for November 2016 to undermine Independent Redistricting.

In 2012, with Prop 115, the GOP-dominated legislature tried to do the same thing -- jack up the politicization -- to the state court system. The voters beat it down.

Under the guise of enhancing voter say in redistricting, seeking direct election of redistricting commissioners, the GOP hopes to overcome resistance of minority voters that played a significant role in the 2011 redistricting cycle.

Notably, one of the sponsors, Kelly Townsend, at one of the first public hearings of the AIRC in 2011, demonstrated her goofy rhetorical skills earning the nickname "Crazy Lady."

The underlying issue with HCR2009, as well as the concept of Independent Redistricting itself, is Majority Rule, Minority Rights. From democracyweb.org,
The American founders—Anti-Federalists and Federalists alike—considered rule by majority a troubling conundrum. In theory, majority rule was necessary for expressing the popular will and the basis for establishing the republic. The alternative—consensus or rule by everyone's agreement—cannot be imposed upon a free people. And minority rule is antithetical to democracy. But the founders worried that the majority could abuse its powers to oppress a minority just as easily as a king. Thomas Jefferson and James Madison both warn in their letters about the dangers of the tyranny of the legislature and of the executive. Madison, alluding to slavery, went further, writing, "It is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part."
The United States has a long and storied past replete with many records of voter suppression. In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act, with a view toward protecting the rights of minorities from abuse by majorities. Arizona, for many years and for just cause, was subject to the Section Five preclearance requirement of the VRA.

In 2013, the GOP-dominated legislature passed HB2305, a Voter Suppression bill which then Gov. Brewer signed into law. In a fierce demonstration of Machiavellian Democracy, a multi-partisan coalition of voters succeeded in a referendum to put HB2305 to a vote of the people, with full confidence of achieving a People's Veto. The following year, 2014, the first thing the legislature, still controlled by Republicans, did was to repeal HB2305. Of course, their expectation of that veto by voters was fear, not confidence. Fear that the Republicans would get their asses handed to them (by dramatically increased voter turnout in 2014).

To borrow from the Declaration of Independence,
... when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security
We will throw off Crazy Lady Townsend and her co-conspirators in their efforts to undermine Independent Redistricting.

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Changing the subject from Arizona Republicans trying to undermine the will of the voter, we now turn to presidential politics.

Last August, Sen. Bernie Sanders said,
Voting Rights Act On Thursday’s 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, Sen. Bernie Sanders said legislation in introduced in the Senate would provide for universal voter registration. “We are way behind many other countries in terms of making it easy for people to register,” Sanders said. “I want to see America have the highest voter turnout of any major country – not one of the lowest,” he told the Rev. Al Sharpton on MSNBC’s “Politics Nation."



My friends on Facebook will already have become aware that LD26 state Sen. Andrew Sherwood pre-filed SB1007 to mandate automatic voter registration in Arizona. Of course, it's not a concept that's popular with elected Republicans. Senate Pres. Andy Biggshot assigned the bill to three committees, assuring that it will be extremely difficult to get it passed, even if one of those committees hears the bill.

I'm confident that Sen. Sherwood will keep SB1007 on the front burner this session. It's up to the rest of us to pressure the legislature to expand, rather than suppress, voting rights.

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