Bill To Clean Up Early Voting Lists Goes To Senate Floor

Bill To Clean Up Early Voting Lists Goes To Senate Floor

By Terri Jo Neff |

State senators are expected to debate Monday whether to approve a bill that requires Arizona’s 15 county recorders to drop registered voters from the Permanent Early Voting List (PEVL) who do not respond to a drop-notification letter that they have not utilized their mail-in ballots in a four-year period.

Since 2007, registered voters have been allowed to submit a written request to add their name to PEVL, which ensures the voter automatically receives a ballot by mail for each election instead of having to request one every time. More than 3 million voters in Arizona are on PEVL.

State law specifies that a failure to vote by early ballot does not constitute grounds to be removed from PEVL, although there are estimates that more than 100,000 PEVL voters across Arizona have not voted by early ballot in the last four years.

In January, Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita (R-LD23) introduced SB1069 which would have required county recorders to remove PEVL voters who do not cast their early ballot for two consecutive primary and general elections for which there was a federal, statewide or legislative race on the ballot.

The intent, according to Ugenti-Rita, is to ensure unwanted ballots are not mailed out, saving counties money and ensuring ballot integrity. PEVL would become EVL if the bill passes.

“There’s a cost associated with sending out ballots to people who aren’t voting by mail,” she said during one a committee meeting last month. “There’s also an integrity component,”

Every time a PEVL voter casts an early ballot in a primary or general election that includes a federal, statewide or legislative race it would restart the voter’s drop-off clock. Being removed from PEVL has no impact on a voter’s registration status.

As a safeguard, Ugenti-Rita’s legislation requires the county recorders or other county elections officials to send a written notification by Dec. 1 of each even-numbered year to any PEVL voter identified as being subject to removal. Such voters who wish to remain on PEVL must then send back a signed notice with their address and date of birth within 30 days.

On Feb. 16, Ugenti-Rita’s bill failed to pass the Senate Committee on Government on a 15-15 vote. Days later the text of SB1069 was swapped into SB1485, another election-related legislation. The full Senate is slated to vote on SB1485 on Monday.

The legislation is supported by the Barry Goldwater Institute for Public Policy Research, but has been opposed by the Stonewall Democrats of Arizona, the Arizona Education Association, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona. Another PAC which opposes SB1069-turned-SB1485 is Unite Arizona, a political action committee financed by the Unite America Election Fund based in Denver.

Despite the fact that Arizona has one of the most progressive early voting processes, Unite America/Arizona is fighting an effort to ensure that early ballots get to living residents of the state. The group’s website continues to use the now-challenged claim that election equipment can be hacked in order to sell their voting reform package which includes only mail-in ballot elections.

According, the Unite American Election Fund gave more than $850,000 in the past year to Unite Arizona. In turn, Unite Arizona gave $505,000 to Our Arizona Values, representing all of the funds received by that group.

Public records show 99 percent of the funds received by Our Arizona Values was paid to Polestar, which spent nearly $240,000 last year in an unsuccessful effort to unseat Sen. Nancy Barto (R-LD15) in the Republican primary. Barto is seen as strong voice on the Senate Judiciary Committee and has introduced bills this session aimed at election integrity issues.

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As sponsor of the bill, Ugenti-Rita has spent a lot of time responding to attacks by legislators who contend dropping voters from PEVL interferes with voting rights. She said during last week’s Senate Rules Committee meeting that she was offended by how some opponents appeared to be “purposefully mischaracterizing” the bill in an attempt “to demonize it” with voters.

“If you want to oppose the bill because there’s an actual provision in there that you don’t like, I mean, I get it,” she said last week. “But attacking voting rights? This is a voluntary list that we’re taking about. There is no right to be on PEVL.”

Ugenti-Rita added that suggestions by some legislators that the bill attacks individuals’ rights to vote or that it could prohibit someone from voting “is very dangerous rhetoric in a time when inflammatory, incendiary language should not be utilized especially when we are discussing relevant policy.”

The now-SB1485 is quite different from a PEVL bill introduced this session by Rep. Kevin Payne (R-LD21) who sought to do away with PEVL completely, even though in some counties more than 80 percent of all ballots cast in the 2020 General Election came in via mail or were dropped off early.

Meanwhile, election-related Senate Bill 1025 introduced by Sen. Kelly Townsend (R-LD16) passed the Senate on a 16 to 14 vote last week and is awaiting a First Read in the House.

SB1025 had been expected to receive greater bi-partisan support as it was intended to ensure voters understood what it meant if a machine reader alerted to an overvote situation. The bill requires election officials or polling station judges to know what an overvote (or undervote) warning means so they can explain it to in-person voters who might be faced with such a warning.

Biden Is Determined To Reward His Political Supporters

Biden Is Determined To Reward His Political Supporters

By Dr. Thomas Patterson |

America’s recent presidents have been all over the spectrum politically, but they shared one thing in common: near total indifference to our national debt.

George W. Bush wasn’t that interested in fiscal matters, not vetoing a single bill his first six years in office. He exerted little influence as the deficit started to climb. Barack Obama zealously pursued spend and borrow strategies.  He affirmed the mindset of ignoring future implications.

Fiscal conservatives who hoped a Republican president could right the ship were crushed when Donald Trump announced the giant entitlement programs were safe from reform on his watch.

Now, Joe Biden, in a time of peace and prosperity, except for our self-inflicted Covid relief spending, has proposed a $6.1 trillion budget which includes authorization of almost $4 billion of borrowing in a single year.  That’s enough debt, inflation adjusted, to finance the Revolutionary War, the Civil War, the Great Depression and both world wars combined (but not the Green New Deal).

Why do presidents matter? After all, appropriations bills must originate in the House and the president has no constitutional spending authority.

The reason is that most politicians, including many who won’t admit it, love spending money without having to raise taxes. Budget cutting is tough work and costs political support.

No matter how urgent the reductions or how indefensible the cause, the deprived party always raises a media-supported stink while the beneficiaries – the taxpayers of the future – are mute. Knowing that your “conservative“ leaders aren’t fully behind your cost cutting efforts stymies even the most stalwart legislators.

But the Biden administration is breaking new ground. They came into office with the virus on the wane, vaccinations becoming available through the prodigious efforts of their predecessors and the economy growing. Meanwhile the graph showing the growth of federal debt, now over 100% of GDP, resembles a hockey stick.

But they didn’t despair at the apparent lack of opportunity to spend now that they had the reins. The New Republic advised to “spend like crazy“ anyway and influential party leftists like AOC and Bernie agreed. So they created an imaginary crisis requiring $1.9 trillion more in Covid relief in addition to the $3.7 trillion already spent.

Pitching a crisis just now isn’t easy to do. The housing market is up 12%, manufacturing is at a five-year high, unemployment is falling and private sector GDP growth was 4.3% in the last quarter.

Still, they soldier on. But the “Covid relief” bill looks suspiciously like a Democrat wish list. There’s a $15 minimum wage mandate.  Those who are still unable or unwilling to work get a $400 per week bonus employment benefit, which will make working a losing proposition for many. Schools get $130 billion, even though they have been mostly closed and unable to spend their previous allocation.

There’s $400 billion to bail out overly generous pension plan promises in big spending states. There’s pork galore. Art, farms, climate, bridges, you name it.  About 4% of the funding goes to directly combating Covid.

Biden is determined to reward his political supporters.  He preposterously insists that he learned the dangers of spending too little from the 2009 “shovel ready“ infrastructure debacle and won’t repeat that mistake. It’s not intuitively clear how, if they couldn’t constructively spend $830 billion, even more money to bungle would have helped. Still, spending for its own sake has become the de facto operating principle.

Republicans as usual are ramping up their anti-spending rhetoric now that Democrats are in charge. Democrats love to point out Republican past fiscal failures to justify their own reckless behavior.

But not one congressional Democrat has stood up to demand a stop to the madness. Groupthink is a powerful force. Surely some of them must be sane enough to recognize that we are on an unsustainable and highly dangerous path and that we are unconscionably victimizing our children and grandchildren.

It’s not rocket science. Yet the desire to be a good member of their tribe trumps all.

So this is how the new Bidenland works. There’s no longer any need for Covid economic relief and, if there were, this “rescue” bill wouldn’t provide it.  We spend because we can.

Dr. Thomas Patterson, former Chairman of the Goldwater Institute, is a retired emergency physician. He served as an Arizona State senator for 10 years in the 1990s, and as Majority Leader from 93-96. He is the author of Arizona’s original charter schools bill.

Maricopa County Won’t Appeal Ruling Which Recognizes Senate’s Right To Audit Elections

Maricopa County Won’t Appeal Ruling Which Recognizes Senate’s Right To Audit Elections

By Terri Jo Neff |

Just hours after a judge slammed the door on their legal challenge to two State Senate subpoenas, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors announced they will not appeal a court order requiring them to comply with the election-related subpoenas.

“Judge [Timothy] Thomason’s ruling brings clarity to whether Senate subpoenas apply to ballots that, per state law, must be kept private following an election; as well as the many other documents and equipment demanded,” Board Chairman Jack Sellers said in a statement. “We respect his legal opinion and will immediately start working to provide the Arizona Senate with the ballots and other materials.

The ruling by Thomason that the subpoenas issued in January “are legal and enforceable” made it clear that the Senate and its soon-to-be-announced auditor must not only be given access to Maricopa County’s electronic voting system -computers, software, tabulators- but also the more than 2 million ballots cast in the 2020 General Election.

“The Subpoenas comply with the statutory requirements for legislative subpoenas,” Thomason wrote in his detailed, 16-page finding. “The Senate also has broad constitutional power to oversee elections. The Arizona legislature clearly has the power to investigate and examine election reform matters. Accordingly, the Senators have the power to subpoena material as part of an inquiry into election reform measures.”

In his statement, Sellers also noted that Maricopa County elections officials have already turned over more than 11GB of election-related data demanded in the two subpoenas issued by Senate President Karen Fann and Senate Judiciary Chair Warren Petersen. And it didn’t take long for legislators to react to the county’s no-appeal decision.

“County said they needed a court order to comply with the subpoena. They got it,” Petersen tweeted after Thomason’s clerk released the detailed ruling to the parties. “Election integrity wins today.”

News of Thomason’s ruling that the Senate’s subpoenas served a legitimate legislative purpose and did not violate separation of powers principles was also well received by former Sen. Eddie Farnsworth. It was Farnsworth who along with Fann issued two subpoenas back in December that Maricopa County’s five-member board also ignored.

Instead of complying with the Fann / Farnsworth subpoenas, the county board sued the Senate and later decided to do its own post-election audit of the electronic voting system without participation by any of the legally-authorized political party observers.

“It is unfortunate that the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors’ incessant delaying tactics and smoke and mirrors audit in contempt of the legislature’s legal authority has cost Arizona citizens so much time, money, and trust,” Farnsworth said Friday. “Hopefully, the Senate, through a true forensic audit, can restore some confidence in the election system.”

Dunn Calls For Biden To Take Responsibility For Decision To Release Immigrants Into Communities

Dunn Calls For Biden To Take Responsibility For Decision To Release Immigrants Into Communities

YUMA – On Friday, Rep. Tim Dunn called out the Biden administration for their policy of releasing detained immigrants into southern Arizona communities, which include Yuma.

According to data from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in January, more than 5,700 unaccompanied minors crossed the border, up from 4,850 in December and 4,500 in November.

On Thursday, a CBP staffer reportedly told top Biden administration officials to expect a peak of 13,000 unaccompanied minors to cross the border in May — the highest level ever, according to the New York Post.

Then Biden admitted on Friday that thousands of unaccompanied children were coming and are expected to come across the border as part of migration surge.

Those migrants are being released into many of the communities Dunn represents. In fact, the Yuma Sector of the U.S. Board Patrol has apprehended over 8,600 illegal immigrants this fiscal year, up from 4,400 the previous year.

Dunn says the Biden policy has led to “burdensome challenges of adhering to COVID-19 guidelines at facilities, as well as to house a growing number of individuals here illegally.”

Latest reports show over 240 releases in the past few weeks.

“President Biden’s irresponsible policy to release immigration detainees freely into the community is already having predictable negative results,” said Dunn in a press release. “This is particularly the case in Yuma and other southern border counties who are left to manage the consequences. With Yuma County having one of the highest rates of COVID-19 in the state, our hospitals and city services are overwhelmed and could put care for Arizonans in jeopardy.”

“The Biden Administration needs to take responsibility for the consequences of its damaging policies,” continued Dunn. “I call on U.S. Senators Mark Kelly and Kyrsten Sinema in Washington to work on our behalf to ensure the federal government is testing the immigrants it releases and provides us the appropriate financial resources to cover other costs being incurred.”

Arizona House Approves Bill Ensuring In-Person Clergy Hospital Visitations

Arizona House Approves Bill Ensuring In-Person Clergy Hospital Visitations

PHOENIX – Some find it hard to believe that a law was necessary, but the Covid epidemic has limited the access clergy members have had to the sick and dying. As a result, the Arizona House of Representatives stepped up and approved HB 2575, legislation requiring that hospital visitation policies facilitate the ability of clergy to visit patients for religious purposes, including during a pandemic.

In an end-of-life situation, hospitals would have to facilitate in-person clergy visitation regardless of the time of day, thanks to the bill sponsored by State Representative Quang Nguyen.

The bill was supported by Dignity Health, Center For Arizona Policy, Arizona Catholic Conference, and Health System Alliance Of Arizona.

“I’ve heard many troubling stories over the past year of people left to die alone in a hospital, unable to receive in-person spiritual care,” said Representative Nguyen. “Pandemic or not, it’s simply wrong to deny patients and their families the spiritual comfort and support they need during such a difficult time. This legislation makes sure that won’t continue to happen.”

Under HB 2575, clergy members are required to comply with all reasonable health and safety precautions imposed by hospitals when interacting with patients. The bill also contains an emergency clause, which means it would take effect immediately, if passed and signed into law.

The bill now moves to the State Senate for consideration.