A judge will decide next week whether Arizona voters will see an initiative on the Nov. 8 General Election ballot to approve what the Arizona Free Enterprise Club calls “radical” election procedure changes.
Judge Joseph Mikitish of the Maricopa County Superior Court has set Aug. 5 for a hearing on an Order to Show Cause as to why he should not grant a request by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club (AFEC) to invalidate more than half the signatures submitted earlier this month on initiative petitions for the proposed Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections Act (AFFE Act).
Mikitsh’s hearing stems from a lawsuit filed July 22 by AFEC, which argues the AFFE Act would upend Arizona’s election administration and voter registration laws, curtail current safeguards with the initiative and referendum process, and reduce candidate contribution limits while promoting more taxpayer subsidies to certain ‘Clean Elections’ candidates.
According to AFEC’s lawsuit, the political committee Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections (ADRC Action) filed an application in February with Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs for a serial number necessary to commence a petition drive in hopes of getting the Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections Act on the statewide ballot for the 2022 General Election.
Then on July 7, Hobbs was presented with nearly 52,000 petitions sheets containing a purported 475,290 signatures of qualified electors, of which at least 237,645 must be deemed valid to get the AFFE Act on the general election ballot.
But state law requires that all circulators who are not Arizona residents along with all paid circulators regardless of residency must register as circulators before they may begin collecting petition signatures. The circulators must also affix their unique circulator registration ID number to each petition they circulate.
AFEC contends, however, that more than 1,000 of the circulators who collected signatures for the AFFE Act initiative were non-compliant with at least one state election law. Some of the compliance issues involved incomplete registration forms while other circulators allegedly did not write their “full and correct registration number on both sides of the sheet,” as required by law.
The lawsuit seeks a court order requiring Hobbs to disqualify all petition signatures obtained by circulators who were not registered in compliance with state law. It also asks Mikitish to bar the state’s 15 county recorders from verifying any signatures on petitions in which the circulator’s registration number was not properly affixed.
“Petition signatures obtained by individuals who failed to strictly comply with
one or more provisions of applicable law are legally insufficient,” the lawsuit states. “Injunctive remedies are necessary to prevent irreparable injury to the
Plaintiffs and to ensure that the Defendant fully and effectively discharges the duties imposed upon her by state law.”
The lawsuit does not supply a tally of the disputed signatures, but AFEC’s Executive Director Scot Mussi said Monday that well over half of the signatures submitted by ADRC Action were collected in violation of Arizona law.
“That should be more than enough to invalidate this initiative,” Mussi said.
Among the provisions of the Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections Act is one which would restrict legislative election audits such as the one Senate President Karen Fann approved last year. It would also allow same-day voter registration
In addition, it would prohibit any law being enacted calling for voters to show identification when dropping off a mail-in ballot at a polling station or election center.
Another provision of the Act is a requirement that elections officials accept tribal IDs when registering voters and confirming their voting eligibility, even though county recorders do not have access to tribal membership databases.
Election-related legal challenges are heard by the courts on an expedited basis. Mikitish’s show cause hearing comes more than three months before the Nov. 8 election, but the case must be resolved by the end of August to ensure the counties have sufficient time for printing and delivery of early ballots and ballots which are sent to voters under the Uniformed and OverseasCitizens Absentee Voting Act.
Even if the AFEC legal challenge fails, many elections observers doubt that voters will approve the initiative. The problem, they note, is that the Act includes so many different provisions that voters will find enough objectionable that they will reject the whole initiative.
Co-plaintiffs in the case are AFEC’s Mussi and Aimee Yentes, both of whom are registered voters in Arizona. Meanwhile, Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections (ADRC Action) has been named as a Real Party in Interest in the lawsuit.
AFEC is an Arizona nonprofit corporation organized and operated for the promotion of social welfare, within the meaning of IRS Code of 1986, section 501(c)(4). The organization engages in public education and advocacy in support of free markets and economic growth in the State of Arizona.
The debate over election fraud versus voter suppression is high-stakes and high-intensity. Trump loyalists insist the election was stolen, mechanically rigged, and rife with fraudulent actors. Democrats continue to insist that fraud never happens, an argument easily swatted away by the existence of thousands of documented incidents.
But Democrats have a point in that the problematic behaviors—bulk mail voting, ballot harvesting, and related practices—were permitted by law in most states. That means, according to the “fact checkers,” all reasonable people must agree that there was no fraud.
Trump fought the wrong war at the wrong time. While he was ranting about corrupt voting machines, rogue election workers, and a cascade of assorted allegations, Democrats in the last two elections were cleverly creating election rules intended to generate a permanent majority.
Trump and his supporters were never able to prevail in a court of law. In the end, they were outsmarted and lost the election to a pathetically weak candidate.
Attorney General Bill Barr was an astute, loyal adviser to Trump during the election. Unfortunately, his advice to stop exploring rabbit holes was not heeded. Yet he would see the traps the Democrats were setting in September 2020.
Bulk mail balloting is not your father’s absentee voting, he explained on CNN. “Instead of requests coming from a specific address, we are now going to mail them to everyone on a voter list, when everyone knows the voter lists are inaccurate.”
“People who should get them don’t get them…and people who get them are not the right people. They are people who have replaced the previous occupant…and sometimes multiple ballots come to the same address with several generations of previous occupants.” That’s no way to run an election, he concluded.
He’s right. For generations, America had voting laws that produced fair, reliable results. The laws required that all voters register beforehand and present a secure ID. All votes were cast confidentially. Absolutely no intimidation or persuasion was allowed in or near a polling station.
Importantly, there was a strict chain of custody to make sure that there could be no tampering and that all legally cast ballots would be counted. Voting was done mostly on site although accommodations were made for those unable to vote in person on election day.
That was the American way of conducting elections. Now all that has changed. Millions of ballots are sent automatically to voters just because they didn’t opt out of receiving one. Nobody knows what happens to them until they are returned.
Helpful party workers can collect them, offer aid with voting, and often leave them anonymously in drop boxes. The notoriously unreliable signature verification often is the only ID required.
Today, this is all perfectly legal. Of course, it’s illegal to vote a ballot not your own, to unduly influence another voter, or to fail to deliver certain ballots. But with bulk mail voting, none of this is detectable.
Once a mail-in ballot is opened and separated from its envelope, any possible proof of fraud is lost, no matter how many audits and investigations are performed. We have a voting system obviously prone to fraud and coercion yet opaque to any misdeeds committed within it.
Arizona voters, thanks to their legislature, will have a chance this year to close one gaping flaw in our system by approving a requirement of voter ID for bulk mail voters. There is no coherent reason to require ID at the polls while bulk mail voters get a pass.
Although the media continue to insist that those who support voter ID are “vote suppressors,” Americans smell a rat. According to a Quinnipiac poll, only 60% of voters overall believed the last election to be legitimate.
In the end, it may not matter how much “provable fraud” can be discovered. So long as we have a slipshod, non-secure system like bulk-mail voting, it will be difficult to convince voters of the integrity of their vote.
In a closely divided country, it is critical that citizens have confidence in elections and the legitimacy of the government. As Bill Barr says, “we are playing with fire.”
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.
Last week, the Biden Administration officially filed a lawsuit against Arizona over HB2492, which bolsters safeguards to our voter registration process to require proof of citizenship ensuring only U.S. citizens are voting in our elections.
To many, it sounds absurd. Not HB2492, but the revelation that in Arizona, and in every state in the country, people are registering to vote and voting without ever providing proof of citizenship.
The Left says it isn’t happening. And they’re quick to run to their allies in traditional corporate media to further the lie that voter fraud is a made-up problem. But then maybe they would like to explain the guilty plea from last week.
On Thursday, Guillermina Fuentes of San Luis pleaded guilty to one count of Ballot Abuse for her role in a ballot harvesting scheme from the August 2020 Primary Election. And she wasn’t the first one to do so. Back in March, Alma Juarez, also of San Luis, entered the same plea. Both women admitted that they knowingly collected ballots from another person, and those early ballots belonged to individuals for whom they were not a family member, household member, or caregiver.
Since the 2020 election, the left has been accusing conservatives of spreading the “Big Lie”—a label attached to anyone who believes that voter fraud does occur and that there are legitimate election integrity reforms that require legislative attention. Every reform that lawmakers have introduced has been labelled “Jim Crow 2.0,” and the left has rallied hundreds of organizations to prevent them from becoming law.
Yet while decrying legitimate election reforms from conservatives, liberals have been busy pushing their own election bills, such as HR1, which would have federalized our entire election process and completely changed the way we vote. It was a radical bill that fortunately stalled in the U.S. Senate due to a lack of votes.
But their defeat in Washington hasn’t stopped the left in their quest to undermine the security of our elections and chill our speech rights. A coalition of liberal organizations have decided to bring HR1 to Arizona with a new ballot measure called “Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections.” Suffice to say, there is nothing free or fair about it…