PHOENIX — Arizona voters will face at least eight — and likely as many as 11 — proposals they get to approve or quash in November.
And their fate could determine not only the laws on the operation of state government but even the influence that voters have in crafting new laws in the future.
The most sweeping would sweep away many of the restrictions that the Republican-controlled legislature has placed on registration and voting.
For starters, the plan by Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections it would restore the “permanent early voting list” that lawmakers eliminated in 2021. That would ensure that people who want can continue to get early ballots, even if they do not use them for several years.
It would repeal the 2016 law that makes it a crime for individuals to take someone else’s early ballots to a polling place.
There’s a provision to sign people up to vote when they get a driver’s license unless they specifically opt out. It also would repeal the requirement to be registered at least 29 days before the election in order to vote and sharply reduce the amount of money candidates could take from any individual or political action committee.
And it would spell out that a signature on an early ballot envelope, if matched to those already on file at county offices, would be sufficient to have the votes inside of it counted.
That last provision directly conflicts with the Arizona for Voter ID Act which would require those who vote early to provide additional information.
That includes an affidavit with the voter’s date of birth and the number from one of several acceptable forms of identification like a driver’s license, a state-issued non-operating license, the last four digits of the person’s Social Security number, or a unique number issued by the secretary of state to those who lack other forms of ID.
The measure also would affect those who go to the polls on election day, requiring a photo ID. Gone would be an existing alternate option of bringing in two different documents without a photo that contain the person’s name and address, like a utility bill, vehicle registration or property tax statement
If both measures pass, the ballot measure with more votes would take precedence, but only in the areas where the two conflict.
Elections would also be affected, but in a less direct way, with the Voters’ Right to Know Act.
The initiative, being pushed by former Attorney General Terry Goddard, a Democrat, would require public disclosure of the true source of donations of more than $5,000 spent by organizations in support of or opposing any candidate or ballot measure. Potentially more significant, it is worded to cut through any effort to hide the identity of the actual original donor by having the cash transferred — Goddard uses the word “laundered” — through a series of groups.
Current state law exempts any group classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a “social welfare” organization from having to list their contributors.
And there can be a lot of money involved.
In 2014, for example, American Encore spent more than $1.4 million on Arizona races. And while the group originated with an organization founded by the Koch brothers, there is nothing on the record who put up those dollars.
The initiative would spell out that once any statewide campaign spends or accepts $50,000 — $25,000 for local or legislative races — it has to start filing public reports of the source of the funds received, providing the name, mailing address, occupation and employer of anyone who has contributed at least $5,000. More important, that includes not just who is the direct donor but where that entity got the money.
On the subject of ballot measures, three would throw new hurdles into the ability of voters to enact their own laws.
One proposed by Sen. Vince Leach, R-Tucson, would amend the Voter Protection Act. That’s the 1998 measure approved at the ballot that forbids lawmakers from repealing anything approved by voters and limiting their ability to change it unless it “furthers the purpose” of the original measure and gets a three-fourths vote.
This would give lawmakers permission, by simply majority, to effectively rewrite or repeal an entire voter-enacted law if any part, no matter how small, is declared illegal or unconstitutional by a court.
And if a voter-approved measure actually raised money, lawmakers would be free to divert funds from its intended purpose elsewhere.
Separately, a measure offered by Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, would spell out that any initiative that enacts a tax would take effect only if it got the approval of 60% of those going to the polls.
That threshold is significant: A 2020 proposal to increase income taxes on the wealthy to fund education picked up just 51.7% of the vote. The only reason it never took effect was because the Supreme Court said it was legally flawed.
A third measure asks voters to limit their future initiatives to what a court determines is a single subject.
Rep. John Kavanagh, R-Fountain Hills was upset about the 2016 initiative which raised the state minimum wage with automatic escalators. The same measure also requires most companies to provide workers with at least five days of sick and personal leave.
Kavanagh contends that practice amounts to “logrolling.” He said his proposal would keep voters from having to “hold their nose” and support something they do not like in exchange for getting something they want because it is on the allot as a single take-it-or-leave-it measure.
Another constitutional amendment would create a new post of lieutenant governor. And what that’s all about is the line of succession.
If a governor dies in office, quits to take another job, gets criminally indicted, or is impeached and convicted — all of which has happened in Arizona — the next in line is the secretary of state.
Only thing is, the person in that office got there by being elected on his or her own. And Sen. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, said voters make their picks based on the skill set for that office, like being the state’s chief elections officer, rather than being the governor-in-waiting.
It has happened more than once that the secretary of state is not of the same party as the governor being replaced. That, in turn, could mean that the policies set by the governor chosen by voters may no longer exist.
That most recently occurred in 2009 when Democrat Janet Napolitano quit less than two years into her second term to take a job in the newly elected Obama administration. That put Republican Jan Brewer in charge.
But it also has gone the other way like when Democrat Rose Mofford became governor in 1988 after the legislature impeached and convicted Republican Evan Mecham.
The system would have each party’s nominee for governor select a running mate, similar to what happens at the presidential level, with both names on the general election ballot. That person would become lieutenant governor.
Voters rejected the idea in 1994 and again in 2010.
But supporters say that was because those proposals simply created what would be a taxpayer-funded do-nothing position. This proposal tries to get around that with a requirement that whoever is the lieutenant governor must be put in charge of the state Department of Administration or can fill any position the governor is authorized to fill.
Voters also are being asked to decide whether to let “dreamers” who attend state universities and community colleges pay no more tuition that other state residents.
The measure would overturn part of Proposition 300, a 2006 ballot measure which denies various public benefits to those not in the country legally.
That includes any form of subsidized tuition.
Since that time, however, the Obama administration began the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It allows people who arrived in this country illegally as children to remain and even to work if they meed certain conditions.
Based on that, the Maricopa community college system and, later, the Arizona Board of Regents agreed to let DACA recipients pay in-state tuition.
The Arizona Supreme Court, however, ruled in 2018 that is precluded by Proposition 300. This would remove that legal impediment.
Rep. Michelle Udall, R-Mesa, said it is in the state’s long-term interest to ensure that more children who have gone to Arizona high schools have a chance to get a higher education. She said the state’s economy is on an upswing “but without an increasing number of college graduates, these gains cannot hold.”
Another ballot measure would provide some protections to anyone who winds up in financial trouble.
One provision would increase the “homestead exemption” to $400,000 in a bid to keep people from losing their homes in bankruptcy cases.
That figure, which says how much homeowners can shield from creditors, is currently $150,000, a number set in 2004. It represents the equity people have in their homes, not the value of the house itself.
Another provision would increase to $15,000, and adjust annually for inflation, the amount of household goods, including furniture, electronics and appliances that someone can keep after declaring bankruptcy. That figure is now $6,000.
It also would boost the value of a vehicle that can be shielded from debtors from $15,000 to $25,000, also with inflation adjustments.
And, outside bankruptcy issues, it would cap the interest rate that could be charged on medical debt at no more than 3%.
Voters also will be asked to increase the amount of sales tax they pay by a tenth of a cent for 20 years to help support fire districts.
Sen. Paul Boyer, R-Glendale, said fire districts are limited in what they can raise in local property taxes. But he said they provide the first response for everything from heart attacks to traffic accidents to anyone who happens to be in their district at the time.
The levy, if approved, is anticipated to raise about $150 million a year, with the lion’s share earmarked for rural districts that lack a sufficient tax base.
While there is a formula for distribution based on each district’s assessed valuation, the measure spells out that no district can get more than 3% of the total.
Also going on the ballot is a measure to give the legislature more power to determine who is entitled to property tax exemptions.
There already are various provisions in the Arizona Constitution dealing with caps on property taxes for groups as diverse as widows and widowers to business equipment.
But Sen. J.D. Mesnard said a provision designed to provide relief to disabled veterans was struck down by Arizona courts over some constitutional issues. And he said the exemption for widow and widowers may also be subject to challenge.
This would repeal the existing individual constitutional provisions and replace them with a single section giving the legislature the power to decide what exemptions from property tax to provide within certain guidelines. Mesnard said, though, it would not expand on the list of who is currently eligible under prior-approved measures.
One other measure could qualify: a proposal to put a “right of reproductive freedom” in the Arizona Constitution. It would bar state and local governments from interfering with the right to elective termination of a pre-viable fetus, defined as one who has a reasonable chance of survival outside the womb.
But backers did not start gathering signatures until May after a draft of the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade was leaked. And they need to submit at least 356,457 valid signatures by Thursday afternoon to qualify.
No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here