Arizona Advocacy Network

Government of, by and for the People

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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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Only in Arizona would repealing a voter suppression law be an act of voter suppression. But that’s what is happening. Last year the Arizona Legislature passed House Bill 2305, a wickedly broad piece of voter-suppression legislation that they hoped no one would notice. But they did.

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If HB 2305 dies, don't revive it this session

The House Judiciary Committee last week voted to repeal House Bill 2305, a controversial omnibus election law passed in the final moments of last year’s legislative session. 

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Arizona Politics, Where Cash Is King

Feb. 6, 2014 — Ever since the first democracy in Athens initiated its first electoral process, money has played an integral part in framing and formulating the discussion and sometimes the outcomes of elections.


Whether the example be the forefathers of Pericles in Athens or a more contemporary one, the democratic principle is that regular people have a say in the result. But those with resources have always used those resources to help bring about a political outcome they desire.

It’s almost as natural as the best lion ruling the pride.

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 8 Ways to Help Overturn Citizens United

Four years after the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission Supreme Court ruling -- a ruling that Senator John McCain described as "the worst decision ever" -- we've seen a torrent of big money sweep through our local, state and national elections. In 2012, candidates and groups spent over seven-billion dollars trying to influence the election outcomes. The bulk of the money came from a small group of super-wealthy political contributors. For example, 61 people who gave an average of $4.7 million dollars each, combined matched the total amount of money raised through small dollar donations by both major party presidential candidates. As a result, our government looks less and less like a democracy -- rule by the people -- and more like a plutocracy -- rule by the wealthy.

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Special Interests Win, We Lose (Again)

The official constitution for the state of Arizona includes a preamble, 30 “articles,” a big bunch of “sections” and all kinds of legal gobbledygook, but I could not find a single reference proclaiming the law of the land simply as: “Money talks.”Still, it must be in there. During the last legislative session Arizona lawmakers passed a bill that makes campaign cash more important than voters, and late Tuesday the state Supreme Court said it was ok for that law to go into effect, a law that not only says money talks but that money shouts.That money rules! While voters? Not so much.

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Redistricting Commission supporters want to bar legislature from challenging law

 

Supporters of the Independent Redistricting Commission want a federal court to rule that the Arizona Legislature has no right to challenge the voter-approved law.Attorney Tim Hogan is pointing out to the judges that the commission was created in 2000 not by the Legislature but by voters themselves. The Arizona Constitution specifically precludes lawmakers from seeking to alter or repeal what voters have enacted.

 

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Republicans — Yes, Republicans — Are Joining the Battle Against Big Money Politics

 After the 2012 election, the Republican National Committee published a 100-page autopsy nobly titled the “Growth and Opportunity Project” that pointed the supposed way forward for the humbled Grand Old Party. Regarding the dark-money-driven, super-PAC-mad politics of today, the document left little doubt about the party’s view: Let the money flow.

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 States Renew Battle To Require That Voters Prove Citizenship

The conservative-driven movement to expand voter restrictions in the name of reducing polling booth fraud has often been described as a solution in search of a problem. Despite evidence suggesting voter fraud is rare, it's a crusade that has proved so durable in GOP-dominated states like Arizona and Kansas that its leading proponents are undeterred — even by the U.S. Supreme Court.

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Judges Aren't Stupid and Neither Were Voters

Wercinski: Intent clear with Clean Elections, Voter Protection acts

 

Was Robert Robb's Nov. 15 column, “Contribution limits: Read the law, not the tea leaves,” intended to be dumb or just dumbfounding?

Yes, a judge applies the law to the facts and circumstances in a case — assuming the law is constitutional. Yes, legislative enactments are presumed (by lawmakers) to be constitutional, although in Arizona there’s a history of that not being the case.Laws and the words that make them are subject to interpretation, which is why Arizonans value fair and impartial courts.

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