Arizona Advocacy Network

Government of, by and for the People

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Clean Elections chief: It's our job to remove candidates who violate the law. Which requires a thorough investigation

The Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission recently drew the ire of The Republic editorial board and columnist Doug MacEachern for its vote to authorize an inquiry into whether Tom Horne, a candidate for attorney general, has violated campaign laws. Fed up with corruption and wishing to promote participation in politics, Arizona voters enacted the Citizens Clean Elections Act in 1998. The multi-faceted program, which includes education, public financing of state and legislative candidates, and independent enforcement of campaign-finance laws, is vital.

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Several people have had the wrong photo and signature printed on their driver's licenses after a glitch occurred in the Arizona Department of Transportation's computer system, according to the agency. Eight people have come forward in the last 10 days to report that they received driver's licenses with an incorrect photo and signature printed on the credential, said Timothy Tait, a department spokesman. More than 45,000 credentials have been issued by the agency since it implemented a new central issuance process on June 16, Tait said.

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On Friday, June 27th a community conversation discusses the role of fair and impartial courts in this fight in Flagstaff.Arizona Advocacy Network, a progressive, non-partisan civic engagement organization is hosting the happy hour event—The Fight for Marriage Equality in Arizona: Taking it to the Courts. Donna Red Wing, Executive Director of One Iowa and Meagan and Natalie Metz, Flagstaff residents and plaintiffs in Arizona’s marriage equality case, Connolly v Roche, will speak along with their attorney, Shawn Aiken.

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An organization that works for fairness and diversity in the court system will host a community conversation on lawsuits that challenge Arizona's definition of marriage.The Fight for Marriage Equality in Arizona: Taking it to the Courts will be June 27 at The Inn at 410 in Flagstaff. The event will give folks who aren't attorneys an idea of the importance of a fair and impartial court system as it relates to the marriage equality cases, according to Sam Wercinski, executive director of Arizona Advocacy Network.

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Sedona AZ (June 12, 2014) – On Friday, June 27, 2014, a community conversation discusses the role of a fair and impartial judiciary as a Flagstaff couple takes their fight for marriage equality to court. Arizona Advocacy Network, a progressive, non-partisan civic engagement organization is hosting the happy hour event, The Fight for Marriage Equality in Arizona: Taking it to the Courts.

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A new controversy is brewing over a voter education drive that Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett wants to launch, leading up to the November election. Bennett told CBS5 that there were a lot of problems during the 2012 election with voter registration, provisional ballots and early ballot lists, so he decided to educate voters with some TV ads to help things run smoother this year.

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A federal appeals court breathed new life this week into the long-running fight over voter registration in Kansas and Arizona. At stake is whether or not the U.S. Election Assistance Commission will have to add state-specific instructions about Kansas and Arizona's proof-of-citizenship requirements to the federal voter registration form. A federal district judge ruled in favor of the states in March, saying that the commission had unlawfully denied the states' requests. On Thursday, the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals granted a temporary stay to the lower judge's ruling, which was sought by the commission and a collection of voting rights groups.

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Arizona may be stuck in a drought, but our political system is submerged under a mudslide of dark money, layered with political corruption. U.S. Supreme Court decisions, most recently McCutcheon and Citizens United, have overturned 100 years of anti-corruption laws, made corporations into people and mysteriously turned money into "free speech."

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On behalf of Gov. Jan Brewer, Attorney General Tom Horne and Secretary of State Ken Bennett (none of whom actually asked for my help) I called Sam Wercinski, Executive Director of Arizona Advocacy Network, and demanded that he stop trying prevent these three fine elected officials from wasting ungodly amounts of taxpayer money on a problem that does not exist.

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Absolute power, corrupts absolutely.

Watching the wheels of state government grind through the 51st session of the Legislature and conclude last month, we saw one glaring example of Lord Acton’s famous 1870 statement opposing a doctrine of papal infallibility.

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Arizona's legislators have wrapped up their work and returned home to explain to voters the many reasons why they should be re-elected. Really.

One item you won't see on that list: the new ban on the freebies that flow freely forth at the state Capitol.

That's because there isn't one.

It is now year three post-Fiesta Bowl Fiasco.

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Now that the regular legislative session is over, lawmakers who are running for re-election or some other office can focus on their campaigns — including raising money. To that end, one bill passed strips the Citizens Clean Elections Commission of the power to enforce the spending of candidates who do not accept public funding for their campaigns.Tom Collins, Executive Director of the Commission, told us he’s disappointed Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1344.

Listen to the story: http://kjzz.org/sites/default/files/TS0425-fin_elex.mp3

 

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A staffer for Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne has resigned alleging in her letter of resignation that the office is "not following campaign laws or finance laws," imperiling her "legal well-being." Sarah Beattie worked for less than a year as an administrative assistant in the Attorney General's Office, answering questions from the public and providing support to Horne's Constituent Services Division. She also worked as a volunteer fundraiser for Horne's re-election campaign. Staffers are prohibited by law from working on political activities while on state time.

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The most successful politicians in Arizona are named Benjamin. Benjamins call the shots.Benjamins lay down the law. Benjamins rule.That is -- benjamins. Lower case. As in $100 bills. Or as Sam Wercinski, Executive Director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, said recently, "Each time the U.S. Supreme Court further empowers the money over the many, Arizona's legislature seems to respond by weakening existing campaign finance laws further, rather than strengthen those left standing."

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It's ironic that Arizona originally led the nation in a plan to limit campaign money through Clean Elections law, but now is heading in the opposite direction, thanks to the Supreme Court. The Court's 2011 ruling greatly weakened the law, taking a perfectly good referendum passed by Arizona's citizens and watering it down so that non-Clean candidates can receive 10 times more money than Clean Elections candidates.

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The U.S. Supreme Court has dealt another blow to legal limits on campaign contributions. In a 5-4 ruling Wednesday morning, Justice Anthony Kennedy joined with the court’s conservatives to strike down the aggregate limits on campaign contributions. In English, that’s the cap on how much total money you can donate to candidates and committees during a two year campaign cycle. While caps on individual donation amounts are in still in place, the move will allow donors to give overall to more candidates and causes. Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network and political consultant Sean Noble talked about the decision.

LISTEN HEREhttp://kjzz.org/sites/default/files/hn0402_elexmoney.mp3

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PHOENIX – (March 19, 2014) – With the filing deadline less than three months away, the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, the state agency that administers the Citizens Clean Elections Act, reminds potential candidates that public financing is available to run for legislative and statewide offices in 2014.

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"There are going to be unnecessary burdens imposed on citizens," said Sam Wercinski, executive director of the Arizona Advocacy Network, which has been fighting the stricter voter-registration rules since 2005. Wercinski and other critics say voters already attest to their citizenship twice when they fill out the federal form. They must check a box indicating they are a U.S. citizen and they sign the form, affirming they have answered truthfully, under penalty of perjury. "They sign under oath," Wercinski said. "In America, does our signature under oath no longer hold any weight?"

 


 

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PHOENIX – Tens of thousands of ballots cast in Arizona’s 2012 election were rejected by elections officials, indicating continued communication and voter education problems in the state, according to an AZCIR analysis of rejected ballots and interviews with elections experts and legislators.

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Mesnard said he was floored on Tuesday when all but two House Dems voted against H2665 (campaign finance; election; candidate committees), his campaign finance cleanup bill, and caused it to lose its emergency clause.

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The rewrite of the Voting Rights Act currently being debated in Congress would free Arizona from nearly 50 years of strict federal oversight to changes in its voting laws.The rewrite comes after the Supreme Court last summer struck a key provision of the 1965 act that required some or all of 15 states – including the entire state of Arizona – to get Department of Justice “pre-clearance” of any changes to their voting laws because those states had a history of discrimination.

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Two years ago the Republican-controlled Legislature sought to get voters to kill the Citizens Clean Elections Act, claiming it’s wrong for politicians to get public money. Now some of those same GOP lawmakers want to belly up to the bar and get handouts of public dollars for everything from sending out communications to constituents to buying tickets for special events.

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -About 116,000 Maricopa County voters filled out a provisional ballot Tuesday and most of those ballots are still sitting in the county recorder's office yet to be counted.

Sam Wercinski, with the non-partisan Arizona Advocacy Network Foundation, had hundreds of poll watchers stationed across the state on Election Day.

Wercinski told CBS5 that poll workers in several precincts were not prepared to handle the big crowds, so when a problem popped up they simply offered up a provisional ballot instead of addressing individual voter needs.

"In many poll locations the poll workers were put in the middle of a very chaotic situation because of the volume of first-time voters," said Wercinski. "The common advice provided for voters who didn't have proper ID or who's name didn't appear in the signature roster was to go stand in the other line and get a provisional ballot."

Concerns have also been raised that there weren't enough poll workers in busy precincts, which only added to the voter confusion, said Wercinski.

Bob Brewer was a poll inspector at a Phoenix precinct.

He said they could have used a bigger staff, but disputes the claim that poll workers weren't trained properly or didn't follow proper procedure.

According to Brewer, voters deserve much of the blame for the election day chaos by not coming to the polls prepared.

"If you're going to go on a long trip it's up to you to make sure your gas tank is full," said Brewer. "We're in this together and public has to realize their responsibility."

Election officials said that every legitimate ballot will be counted.

In addition to the 116,000 provisional ballots Maricopa County also has 237,359 early ballots.

County officials said they counted more than 62,000 early ballots Thursday and the counting process will continue on Friday.

In 2008, there were approximately 100,000 provisional ballots, which election officials said is comparable to the number in 2012.

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For a brief, giddy moment, Sean Noble -- a little-known former aide to an Arizona congressman -- became one of the most important people in American politics.Plucked from obscurity by libertarian billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, Noble was tasked with distributing a torrent of political money raised by the Koch network, a complex web of nonprofits nicknamed the Kochtopus, into conservative causes in the 2010 and 2012 elections. Read the rest of this in-depth report Here.

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PHOENIX (CBS5) -Arizona's voter ID requirements have resulted in tens of thousands of likely legitimate votes being tossed into the trash. According to records CBS 5 Investigates obtained from the Maricopa County Elections Department, more than 40,000 votes went uncounted in the past two election cycles. The main reasons were voters showing up at the wrong polling places, voters not having the required identification or identification with an old address and signatures that don't match the ones on file. "Imagine your vote not counting," said Sam Wercinski of the Arizona Advocacy Network. Wercinski said the requirements go far beyond simply ensuring voters are who they say they are.

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 A bill that would prohibit the Citizens Clean Elections Commission from investigating allegations of campaign contribution limit violations is part of a “war on voters” by Republican lawmakers, leaders of voter-rights groups said Wednesday. At a news conference, the Arizona Advocacy Network also objected to a resolution that would put voter-approved laws back on the ballot after a set number of years.

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