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Dark Money-Fueled Arizona Ballot Initiative Proposes Gutting Election Integrity Measures

July 27, 2022

By Corinne Murdock |

A proposed ballot initiative for this November seeks to implement a sprawling 25-page overhaul of elections processes, accruing over $7.6 million so far from the national network of Democratic dark money. Namely, the Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections initiative would eliminate voter ID and proof of citizenship for voter registration, allow same-day voter registration, bar election audits like the one authorized by the state senate for the 2020 election, raise small business taxes to increase political campaign funding, and restore private funding in election administration.

Additionally, the ballot initiative would also require universal vote centers, extend in-person early voting through the day before Election Day; require a court order to rule someone too incapacitated to vote; implement automatic voter registration for driver’s license and state ID recipients, as well as of-age high schoolers; allow curbside voting; allow “nontraditional residential addresses” such as mile markers or “geographic or other identifying features” when registering to vote; restore the permanent early voting list; restore inactive voters to active status; permit “signature-only” voter registration; allow third parties to register voters; and reduce contribution limits.

The ballot initiative is the effort of a Democratic coalition of major players in state and national politics filtered through the Arizona Democracy Resource Center (ADRC) as “ADRC Action.” Although the initiative appears to be a local effort at first glance, there are glimpses into the source of its millions in funds: the massive, national Democratic network of dark money. Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections actually sources back to a national donor network called “Way to Win,” which launched as a direct response to former President Donald Trump’s 2016 victory over Hillary Clinton. They asserted that their over $110 million funneled to states in 2019 flipped Arizona and George blue in the 2020 presidential election. 

Way to Win’s major funding comes from the likes of globalist billionaire George Soros’ Open Society Foundations and his family, Stryker Corporation heiress Patricia Stryker, and the prominent dark money D.C. consulting firm Arabella Advisors’ Sixteen Thirty (1630) Fund.

The Soros family has invested personally in Arizona’s elections as well. To date, the family has invested $10,000 in former Maricopa County Recorder and secretary of state candidate Adrian Fontes’ campaign, $10,000 to Democratic attorney general candidate Kris Mayes’ campaign, and $10,600 to Secretary of State Katie Hobbs’ gubernatorial campaign.

According to the latest campaign finance filings, ADRC Action has accumulated well over $7.6 million from in-kind contributions, over $5.5 million of which were from ADRC itself, and expended only $50,000. The second-largest donation came from the Tides Foundation-backed One Arizona, which donated $925,000.

Activate 48 donated $600,000 — they partner with Living United for Change in Arizona (LUCHA), who donated $500,000 themselves and receives support from the Arabella Advisors 1630 Fund and the National Education Association (NEA); Mi Familia Vota; secretary of state candidate Reginald Bolding’s scandal-ridden, dark money-linked Our Voice Our Vote; and Chispa Arizona. The Education Foundation of America also donated $50,000.

All of the $50,000 expenditures went to counsel from Barton Mendez Soto, an election and employment law firm. 

The firm’s co-founder, Jim Barton, has a number of high-profile and controversial clients under his belt, including the ballot initiative predecessor to Prop 208, the Arizona Democratic Party, and LUCHA. Barton was previously a partner at Torres Law Group: a firm whose partner is linked to a Democratic political action committee (PAC) that’s invested over $120,200 into a Republican state representative’s re-election campaign. 

The Secretary of State’s office is processing the signatures. Arizonans For Free and Fair Elections will need over 237,600 valid signatures to qualify. They submitted over 475,000. 

Coalition leadership includes ADRC Co-Executive Director Alison Marciniak, serving as the coalition’s chairwoman, and ADRC Communications Co-Director Joel Edman, serving as the coalition’s treasurer. Marciniak previously worked as a regional field director and organizer for the Arizona Democratic Party, as well as a field director and organizer for Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy (CASE): a nonprofit that advocates for immigration law and voting reforms. Edman clerked with the Arizona District Court and Arizona Supreme Court, as well as interned with the ACLU.

Another one of the coalition members, Eric Kramer, ran a similar ballot initiative last year. The initiative encompassed one of the goals of the coalition’s initiative by repealing HB2569: a bill signed into law last year which bars election officials from using private funds to run elections. HB2569 was prompted by the swell of funds provided by the likes of Mark Zuckerberg, who funneled $5 million to Arizona election officials. That initiative didn’t file signatures when the deadline rolled around.

Corinne Murdock is a reporter for AZ Free News. Follow her latest on Twitter, or email tips to corinne@azfreenews.com.

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