My Turn: The continued undermining of Arizona voters' rights

Since statehood, Arizonans have prized our right to propose and enact our own laws at the ballot without politicians interfering.

Op-ed by Joel Edman, AZAN Executive Director

Since statehood, Arizonans have prized our right to propose and enact our own laws at the ballot without politicians interfering.

For just as long, some politicians and their special interest backers have tried to take that right away. As early as 1916, the Legislature asked voters to weaken their ability to pass ballot measures. Unsurprisingly, the voters said “no.”

Over the years, Arizonans have used their right to direct democracy to make government more transparent and accessible to average citizens, including being ahead of the nation in enacting women’s suffrage in our very first election in 1912.

Initiatives only way to reforms for voters

Since then, voters have created the state’s first campaign contribution limits, clean elections and independent redistricting. Ballot measures were the only way to pass these reforms because the politicians and the corporate powerbrokers behind them didn’t want regular Arizonans to have more say in their government.

Sadly, the same is true today. This past November, 58 percent of Arizona voters voted for Proposition 206, increasing the minimum wage and guaranteeing workers paid time off. Of the state’s 30 legislative districts, 29 of them voted in favor of Prop. 206.

Yet, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce refuses to hear the will of the people. Instead, its leaders are on a crusade to make sure Arizona voters never pass their own laws again. They’ve come up with a bill that would manipulate the rules to make it virtually impossible for voters to put a citizens’ initiative on the ballot, and they’re trying to get the politicians at the state Capitol to pass it.

On top of that, they want ask voters to give the legislature the power to veto any initiative we vote for. If they expect voters to willingly vote away their own power to make laws, they sure don’t know Arizonans very well.

Chamber of Commerce's disdain for your rights

The Chamber has made its stance clear — whether you voted for Prop. 206 or not, they have no respect for your fundamental rights as an Arizona voter. If they get their way, our constitutional system will see a dramatic upheaval.

Unfortunately, some politicians at the capitol seem more concerned with winning approval from the Chamber than from the voters who elected them. Yet, while the Chamber can get away with pushing such a radical agenda, these politicians will not.

The voters are watching, and they do not take kindly to their rights being trampled upon.

Both conservatives and progressives have used the initiative process to address issues that the legislature refused to take up. Arizonans will continue to defend their right to direct democracy for the same reason they always have: On too many issues, the Legislature simply does not do its job.

Our elected leaders can choose to listen to the people, and respect our right to make laws, or they can side with the big-money interests at the capitol. We the people are watching, and we’ll notice what side they choose.