State of Elections

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Tag: Arizona

Arizona’s Intrastate Battle To Regulate Dark Money Spending

By: Will Cooke

The regulation of political activity in Arizona took a contentious turn over the summer of 2015. What began as a disputed fine levied against an independent group known as the Legacy Foundation Action Fund after the 2014 gubernatorial election, now pits two prominent regulatory agencies against each other in a battle over the regulation of independent expenditures and the groups who run them. The ad in question focused its criticism on the U.S. Conference of Mayors and its president, Scott Smith. Though the ad ran in multiple states across the country, its message proved especially relevant for Arizonans who were considering Scott Smith, then the mayor of Mesa, AZ, as a candidate for governor in the Republican Primary. Shortly after the election, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission determined the ad constituted an “independent expenditure” advocating for the defeat of Scott Smith and imposed a $95k fine on the Foundation for failing to disclose their spending as a campaign expense.

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A Shift in Federal Power? Supreme Court to hear Arizona’s Citizenship Requirements for Voter Registration

by James Adam

Arizona law requires individuals to present documents proving U.S. citizenship in order to register to vote. Acceptable proof includes a photocopied birth certificate, photocopied pages of a passport, U.S. naturalization papers or Alien Registration Number, an Indian Census number, Bureau of Indian Affairs card number, Tribal Treaty Card/Enrollment Number, or a photocopy of one’s Tribal Certificate of Indian Blood or Tribal/Bureau of Indian Affairs Affidavit of Birth.  Any change of residence between Arizona counties requires subsequent proof of U.S. citizenship.

In April, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit in San Francisco struck down this Arizona law.  The court declared that federal voting laws requiring only that the applicant sign their name to verify US citizenship supersedes local election law.  In June, the Supreme Court overturned a stay of the decision, and Arizona was unable to require proof of citizenship for registration in the November 2012 election cycle.  However, the state can still urge voters to fill out Arizona registration ballots requiring this proof, but they may not bar an individual from simply registering by merely swearing their citizenship under the federal form.  Also at the time of this decision, the Ninth Circuit upheld Arizona’s photo identification requirement.  The Supreme Court will hear the citizenship arguments early next year. Continue reading

Is a “Top 2” Primary in Arizona on the Horizon?

by James Adam

Come November, voters in Arizona will have the opportunity to drastically alter their election law. If passed, Proposition 121, the “Open Elections/Open Government Act,” will constitutionally eliminate politically affiliated primary elections. The new scheme will allow primary voters to vote for any candidate they wish, regardless of party registration. Although not a requirement, this new law will give voters the option of writing on the ballot their party affiliation when they cast their vote.  Currently Arizona has closed primaries, and voters are allowed to vote solely within their own registered party. If Proposition 121 passes, a primary between all the candidates will occur, and voters will be entitled to vote for whichever candidate they prefer. The two candidates acquiring the most votes will subsequently be placed on the general election ballot. Therefore, it is possible for a scenario where two Republicans gain the most votes in the primary, so both of their names appear on the final general election ballot.  There would thus be no Democratic or third party options. Current examples of states using the top-two primary format include Washington and California. Continue reading

AZ (preclearance): Arizona challenges the Voting Rights Act; why not just bailout?

by Kevin Elliker

On August 25, 2011, Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne filed suit on behalf of the state of Arizona against the Department of Justice alleging the unconstitutionality of the Voting Rights Act. Horne specifically challenged the preclearance requirements of Section 5 of the act. Attorney General Eric Holder vowed to defend the Voting Rights Act, declaring that it plays “a vital role” in ensuring fairness for American democracy.

A brief primer on Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act:

In 1965, Congress passed the VRA in order to better enforce the 15th Amendment. Jurisdictions with histories of pronounced racial discrimination in voting practices were singled out by Section 5 and required to receive preclearance from the Attorney General or a three-judge panel of the District Court of the District of Columbia for any changes to their voting laws. The 1965 iteration of the preclearance formula forced mostly southern states into this category, but also specific jurisdictions within Arizona. In 1970, Arizona was once more included as partially covered by preclearance requirements. It was not until 1975, when the formula for preclearance was changed to include states that provided election materials in only English despite having at least five percent of voting age citizens from “a single language minority” that Arizona became an entirely covered jurisdiction. The 1975 iteration relied on 1972 election data, which meant that Arizona’s 1974 implementation of bilingual voter materials did not preclude them from preclearance requirements. The 1982 and 2006 renewals of VRA followed the 1975 formula. Continue reading

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