Representative-Elect Unveils Eight Election Integrity Bills For Upcoming Session 

Representative-Elect Unveils Eight Election Integrity Bills For Upcoming Session 

By Corinne Murdock |

Freshman lawmaker Alex Kolodin has eight election integrity bills ready to introduce in the upcoming legislative session.

Kolodin publicized these draft bills this week for constituent review. 

Several of the bills would establish an election integrity commission; a tiebreak system for when the attorney general and secretary of state can’t agree on the Election Procedures Manual (EPM); further rights for political party and public observers to oversee processing of drop box ballots; a requirement for drop box ballot processing to be recorded on a live feed; the option for any county to forgo the use of electronic tabulation machines; and clarifications for minimum signature disqualification and observer rights to challenging signatures.

One bill would prohibit the secretary of state, county recorders, county board of supervisor members, and any elected or unelected officer in charge of elections from serving as a chairperson, treasurer, or any other member of a political action committee (PAC). That bill would prevent controversies such as ongoing public scrutiny over Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer’s PAC. A similar bill was introduced last session by State Representative Shawnna Bolick (R-Phoenix), but never made it to any committee.

Richer’s PAC, Pro-Democracy Republicans, submitted $45,000 to Defending Arizona Values for polling and mailers, $10,000 to Awareness Analytics for polling, just over $7,000 to Richer for event and operating expenses, over $3,700 to Connect Strategic for consulting, and over $2,200 to Summit Consulting Group for consulting.

The PAC’s $88,000 in donations came from thousands contributed by various business leaders across different sectors, like investing and insurance. 

Another bill would further clarify legislative intent concerning Title 16, “Elections and Electors,” Chapter 4, “Conduct of Elections.” The proposed legislation clarifies that courts, election officials, and others in power have interpreted these statutes to “an undesirably restrictive degree of public transparency.” Kolodin’s bill establishes a rule of construction that requires the interpretation of statute that affords more transparency to prevail. 

A final bill, the “Voters Right to Know Act,” would establish a system enabling voters to see an image of their cast ballot online. These ballots would be digitally organized in a searchable manner by precinct, not vote center, and would include a report informing voters how each vote for the particular candidate or ballot measure was tabulated. Each ballot would also have a unique identifier like a serial number. However, the identifier wouldn’t be linked to individual voters in any government database. Exempt from this ballot image database would be Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA) votes. Violations of this legislation would constitute a class 2 misdemeanor. 

Though they share the same name, Kolodin’s bill is unrelated to Proposition 211. That separate act approved by voters during this election claims to purge dark money from elections, though it includes carve outs for leftist dark money: corporate media, Big Tech, most labor unions, and certain PACs. 

Prior to joining the state legislature, Kolodin served as a prominent constitutional attorney. Over the last few years, he’s represented the Arizona GOP in several election integrity cases. Kolodin attempted to extend Maricopa County’s polling hours on Election Day following mass voting machine failures, which the county explained during its cavass on Monday were due, in part, to incompatible heat settings on a series of retrofitted ballot-on-demand (BOD) printers. Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) intervened in that petition to ensure its demise.

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

Potential Voter Disenfranchisement Remedy Denied After Senator Mark Kelly Intervenes

Potential Voter Disenfranchisement Remedy Denied After Senator Mark Kelly Intervenes

By Corinne Murdock |

A court ruled against a request to extend Maricopa County polling hours despite mass voting machine failures, after Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) petitioned to reject the request. Kelly is in a highly contested race against one of the GOP candidates that filed suit, Republican challenger Blake Masters.

Two Republican candidates, Masters and Kari Lake, filed an emergency request on Tuesday afternoon to extend the polling hours to 10 pm, after the mass failure of tabulation machines across the county for over eight hours. This extensive failure resulted in issues such as voters spoiling ballots, leaving without voting, or unwillingly casting a provisional ballot. 

One of the lawyers that filed the case, Harmeet Dhillon remarked that Kelly’s intervention was hypocrisy given his public commitments to thwarting voter disenfranchisement. 

“Goes to show you that Democrats’ platitudes about voting rights are often situational, at best,” said Dhillon.

A lawyer for the Arizona GOP, Alex Kolodin, called the court’s rejection “unfortunate” in an interview with “The Conservative Circus.” Kolodin shared that frustrated voters left polls, or were forced to cast a provisional ballot after they checked in at a malfunctioning vote center. The law doesn’t allow for voters to cast a ballot at another polling location after they’ve checked in at one location.

“The campaigns tried to explain to the judge that this was a very unique situation with this widespread issue where voters really were deprived of the right to vote and that made it a unique circumstance that warranted keeping the polls open a couple extra hours,” said Kolodin.

Kolodin said that at least 33 to 40 percent of vote centers were affected by tabulation machine failures. Kolodin stated that the timing marks on the ballots likely weren’t printed properly, which meant the tabulators couldn’t read them.

Kolodin added that printers have been a major issue for Maricopa County since the 2020 election, and were at the root of the SharpieGate controversy.

“It’s funny, the county has known about ballot printing issues for two years,” said Kolodin.

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

Decision On District’s Mask Mandate Policy Will Go To Supreme Court No Matter Who Loses

Decision On District’s Mask Mandate Policy Will Go To Supreme Court No Matter Who Loses

By Terri Jo Neff |

Whether a new state law concerning mask mandates is effective now, or doesn’t go into force until Sept. 29 is the question a Maricopa County judge must answer, but even he admits the final decision will be made by someone else.

Judge Randall Warner held oral arguments Friday morning in a petition for a temporary restraining order (TRO) requested by Douglas Hester against his employer, Phoenix Union High School District, which recently announced a mandatory mask policy for its students, parents, and staff when on school property, including buses.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) currently recommend K-12 students, parents, and staff wear masks when indoors even if vaccinated for COVID-19. Phoenix Union and at least nine other districts across the state have announced or implemented mask mandate.

Hester contends the new state law barring cities, towns, charter and public schools, community colleges, and public universities from ordering or enforcing any such mandated mask usage became effective June 30.

One or both the sides in the case could appeal Warner’s decision on the effective date of the no-mask mandate statute, depending on how he rules and the reasoning behind his decision. Warner acknowledged as such Friday when he said his ultimate duty in the case is to “tee it up for the Supreme Court” and let the justices make the final ruling

Hester, a science teacher for the district, contends HB2898, the K-12 Education Budget Reconciliation Bill which created the new law, is already in effect due to a retroactive clause. Therefore, he wants Warner to issue a TRO to block enforcement of Phoenix Union’s new policy.

Phoenix Union, through its attorney Mary O’Grady, opposes any TRO. O’Grady also filed a motion on the district’s behalf asking Warner to dismiss the case. It is the district’s position that the effective date of the new statute is not until Sept. 29, the ninety-first day after the legislative session ended.

The district also questioned why legislators would include a retroactive effective date if the new law took effect on the schedule Hester’s attorney Alex Kolodin contends is in place.

According to Kolodin, the 90-day provision does not apply to HB2898m the K-12 Budget reconciliation bill. He argued Friday that is one reason appropriations bills are not subject to voter referendums.

“The retroactivity clause, the governor, and members of the Legislature have all expressed their intent was for schools to not be able to do this after June 30 by putting in that retroactivity clause,” he argued.

Hester named the Phoenix Union District and its eight board members as defendants. Warner’s decision is expected next week.