Wouldn’t you say that in Arizona, given the still-unresolved problems they had with the 2020 election –- the audit there is still going on –- it’s more important than just about anything to pass election integrity legislation?
That's what I'd say, but Republican Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey apparently disagrees. On Friday, he vetoed 22 bills, including two of special note: one that would've prohibited the inclusion of Critical Race Theory in training for government workers, and also one designed to help ensure voter integrity. It would have outlawed the mass mailing of ballots to voters who did not request them. I call that a good start.
But it was not to be. Here’s a portion of what Gov. Ducey had to say in a tweet on Friday:
“Today, I vetoed 22 bills. Some are good policy, but with one month left until the end of the fiscal year, we need to focus first on passing a budget. That should be priority one. The other stuff can wait. Once the budget passes, I’m willing to consider some of these other issues. But until then, I will not be signing any additional bills. Let’s focus on our jobs, get to work and pass the budget.”
With all due respect, and as important as a budget is, there is some “other stuff” that mustn't wait, and any chance to sign such important legislation should not be passed up.
According to the AZ MIRROR, the Republicans failed to pass the $12.4 billion budget bill they'd worked out with the governor. They have only a one-vote majority in both houses, and the Democrats didn’t like this budget, so Republicans would've had to vote unanimously to approve it. They don’t quite have the votes yet, so they’ve adjourned till June 10.
One senator and one representative have said they won’t support this budget. These two Republicans are stuck on one provision: a proposal to get rid of the graduated state income tax brackets and replace them with a 2.5 percent flat tax. It’s estimated this would cost the state $1.9 billion. And since a cut of the tax revenue goes to cities and towns, those also would take a hit. Both legislators want them compensated for lost revenue, and they say they have some other concerns as well.
The governor’s decision to veto all 22 of those bills apparently angered both Republicans and Democrats, depending on which of the bills we’re talking about. Democrat Sen. Tony Navarrete described Gov. Ducey’s refusal to sign one prison reform bill as “a public temper tantrum fit for a toddler.”
Other bills had been more important to Republicans. One big one was the anti-CRT Senate Bill 1074, banning training for government officials “that presents any form of blame or judgment on the basis of race, ethnicity or sex.” This was one of the last bills to be passed before they all ended up in quicksand because of the failed budget.
And one that absolutely did not deserve to be vetoed for ANY reason was House Bill 2792, which would have made it a Class 5 felony for an election official to send a ballot to someone who hadn’t requested one. This practice should never be allowed. As reported by the AZ MIRROR, the legislation outlawing this was “a response to Democratic election officials across the country, including former Maricopa County recorder Adrian Fontes, a Democrat, who sought to send early ballots to all voters last year at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. A Maricopa County judge barred Fontes from carrying out his plan for the Democratic presidential preference election in March..”
The judge’s ruling came after the Arizona attorney general issued a temporary restraining order to stop Fontes from sending out the ballots. Fontes had taken it upon himself to do this, tweeting at the time, “We are in uncharted territory here.” (Indeed. All the rule changes that were made across the country during 2020 put us into uncharted territory, all right. We’re still trying to find our way out.)
The AG’s restraining order said, “Sending out unauthorized ballots will create voter confusion on the eve of an election [it was just four days prior] and could result in voters attempting to vote ballots that are not fully authorized.” Gosh, really?
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told Fontes she understood his concern but that he didn’t have the legal authority to mail ballots to people who had not requested them. The Maricopa Board of Supervisors had determined this as well. With all this, it still took a restraining order and a judge’s ruling to stop him. The guy even held a press conference to say his office DID have authority to do this “in time of crisis.”
“I believe it is permissible to send ballots to voters,” he said, “particularly in a type of emergency that we are having now, to ensure that those fundamental rights are maintained and upheld.”
You know, I think we’ve figured out why the county recorder at the recent Board of Supervisors is not the same person who was in charge in 2020. That person is gone. We did a little digging and found there had been a website called fireadrianfontes.com, but nothing is online now. He ran for re-election in Maricopa County on November 3, and he lost.
Of course, we saw at the recent Maricopa County Board of Supervisors “special” meeting that his successor, Stephen Richer, is no prize, either. He’s the one who wrote the letter, unanimously approved by the Board, refusing to cooperate with the audit that had been authorized by the State Senate.
In December of last year, there was a story in AZ CENTRAL referring to Fontes as “outgoing Maricopa County recorder” (leaving January 1) and saying he was taking a job as an interim chief deputy recorder in Pima County. Oh, goody.
Apparently, the newly-elected Pima County recorder was eager to work with Fontes because “he has been leading the way in so much of the revolution of voter registration and early voting for the state,” said Gabriella Cazares-Kelly. She described him as “innovative.”
Well, that’s for sure. We’d like to add that he’s a real “take-charge individual.”
Anyway, this background is offered to make the case that it’s very important for Arizona to “right the ship” after the crazy 2020 election year and pass voter integrity laws. The least they can do is make sure ballots aren’t being mailed out to everyone on their list, requested or not, just days before an election. And Gov. Ducey should have gone ahead and signed that bill, understanding that it's at the county level in key states that national elections are won or lost.
Here’s the story as reported by NEWSMAX.
Meanwhile in Arizona, the Maricopa County election audit continues, with, I assume, a break over the Memorial Day weekend. (Of course, the ballots will be secured 24/7.) There’s really no news out of there right now, at least not that we'd consider reliable, so as soon as we have an credible update, we’ll bring it.