Law Would Force Re-Votes On Ballot Measures

Rim Country senator pushes bill to put propositions back on ballot every eight years

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The Senate Elections Committee on a party-line vote has approved a bill sponsored by Sen. Chester Crandell (R-Heber) that would require voters to re-approve ballot measures every eight years.

The bill still needs Senate and House approval and the governor’s signature.

Sen. Crandell, who represents Rim Country, said the measure would make sure voters have a chance to change their minds — and ensure the law they originally passed was properly implemented.

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Senator Chester Crandell

The bill comes in the wake of a series of controversial efforts by the Legislature to get around voter-approved ballot measures that dictated state spending.

Recent examples include repeated legislative efforts to undo a voter measure that earmarked money for early childhood education and support, a ballot measure that made impoverished, childless adults eligible for medical care through the Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, a voter-approved measure that required the Legislature to provide inflation adjustments for schools, an attempt by the Legislature to reduce the inflation adjustments on the pensions of firefighters, police officers and judges and attempts to undo provisions of the voter-approved Citizens Clean Elections Act.

Crandell argued before the committee that ballot measures effectively lock certain programs into stone. Requiring voters to reapprove the measures every eight years would allow them to change their minds as circumstances change.

However, critics testified the measure would gut the state’s strong voter initiative system. They said lawmakers can already put any measure they want on the ballot — including a ballot measure to modify or repeal a voter-approved initiative. For instance, the Legislature unsuccessfully sought voter approval of a plan to divert to other uses tobacco tax money voters earmarked for the First Things First early childhood education programs.

Crandell’s bill to automatically force a re-vote on voter-approved ballot measures comes in the wake of swirl of controversy about changes in election laws this year.

At the end of the last session, lawmakers on a straight party-line vote passed a bundle of election reforms that made it harder to get measures on the ballot, get a third-party candidate’s name on the ballot or vote by mail. Democrats and Latino groups said the measures would limit the voters’ use of ballot measures and make it harder to register minority voters and get them to the polls.

Those groups quickly gathered 144,000 signatures to put on the ballot a voter referendum repealing those laws.

Republicans in the Legislature then repealed the package of bills themselves, which effectively killed the referendum.

Critics predicted the Republicans would then simply re-adopt the election changes piecemeal, forcing opponents to gather the 144,000 signatures all over again.

Comments

Ronald Hamric 9 months, 2 weeks ago

Any wonder why folks are so fed up with politicians? While they are focused on their own self interests, those of us out here in the real world are still saddled with a sick economy and increasing taxes and costs of just about everything. I don't have many solutions as they have made it so complex, on purpose, that one simply feels like all we are doing is treading water to keep from drowning. Can we have a do over?

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Mel Mevis 9 months, 2 weeks ago

The reason is Arizona State population does not represent the population as a whole.

We continue to pass citizen initiatives over the strenuous objections of the Legislature, the voters of Arizona have passed in initiatives in the past several years mandating:

-- Several tax increases.

-- Medical marijuana.

-- Increased education funding.

-- Expanded health care for the poor.

-- The Independent Redistricting Commission.

-- One of the most progressive public funding “Clean Elections” regimes in the country, among other things.

It seems our Legislature does not represent the majority of citizens. There are several reasons.

Primaries are the problem.

Republicans have a guaranteed lock on 17 seats in the Senate.

How much democracy is there in these 17 crucial primary elections? In 2012, 13 of the 17 Republican senators from these districts ran unopposed. In a 14th seat, the sole opponent withdrew before Election Day. Only three districts had primary challengers.

How many votes were cast to determine the outcomes in all 17 districts? The 13 unopposed candidates required only a single vote. To win all 17 districts, a total of 35,500 votes were required. That is just barely 1 percent of the 3,244,793 voters registered in Arizona. The Legislature reflects the views of these 35,500 voters, not the 3,209,293 whose votes have no impact on the composition of the Legislature.

Our two party system is part of the US Constitution, right?

NO!Not only is there no provision whatsoever for political parties in the Constitution, a central thrust of George Washington’s farewell address was to warn the country about the dangers that parties pose to democracy.

The First Amendment permits free association. But it does not mandate that these have special status in the electoral system. Despite a lack of constitutional basis, we have altered democracy by creating a two-stage system of state-sanctioned, private primaries followed by partisan runoffs. Washington’s warnings have proved prophetic.

It does not have to be this way. Most of Arizona's large cities employ open, nonpartisan voting followed by a runoff when a candidate fails to reach 50 percent. And while ratings of our Legislature and Congress are abysmal, ratings of municipal governments in the metro area have been consistently very high.

Until we change the primary system we will continue to elect people who do not represent the majority of citizens. Sen. Chester Crandell (R-Heber) bill will only tighten a minority grip on control.

If this bill passes and is signed into law expect challenges. Both a referendum and court challenges.

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