Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs introduced four pages of election reform suggestions for the legislature on Wednesday. Suggestions included same-day voter registration using provisional ballots, early voting expansion to include the weekend before Election Day, automatic felon voting rights restoration, removal of state ID requirements for online voter registration, a ban on foreign contributions to ballot initiatives, expansion of allowed campaign fund expenditures for “things like child care,” and requiring political action committees (PACs) to disclose any spending in the ten days before registering as a PAC and seventeen days before an election.
Additionally, Hobbs proposed new types of post-election audits, like risk-limiting audits, as well as mandating and streamlining hand count audits. She also suggested adopting Colorado’s practice of using a monthly National Change of Address (NCOA) report to update voter mailing addresses automatically and notify the voter of the change at their old and new address for corrections, as well as allowing Electronic Registration Information Center (ERIC) data as a first notice of a person moving.
Hobbs noted that her list of proposals wasn’t exhaustive.
In the letter to Senator Karen Fann (R-Prescott), Hobbs cited the need for these election reforms based on lack of closure with the 2020 election.
“It’s no secret that election-related legislation will be a top priority during the upcoming legislative session, and as you know, far too many people seem to believe that the 2020 election has not yet ended,” wrote Hobbs. “Indeed, it’s December 15, 2021, and media reports indicate that Cyber Ninjas have still not completed their ‘audit.’ It’s my fear that our lawmakers will waste time and resources this session trying to pass legislation that accomplishes little more than making it more difficult for election officials to administer elections and more difficult to vote.”
Hobbs characterized her suggested reforms, some of which related to policies in other states that sowed controversy and mistrust in the 2020 election, as the “real solutions.”
“These reforms will make our elections more secure, inclusive, and transparent. Let’s focus on real solutions instead of chasing conspiracies and the favor of those who spread them,” tweeted Hobbs.
In the September draft of the Election Procedures Manual, Hobbs proposed to require counties with precinct-based polling places to count votes by out-of-precinct voters.
Hobbs also urged the Senate last month to establish more protections for federal workers, in the wake of harassment and threats to her and other election officials concerning the 2020 election.
In a CNN opinion piece last month, Hobbs insisted that “battling misinformation” was the only means of protecting elections. However, the secretary of state has insisted that she has limited ability to address speculation and “conspiracies” surrounding the 2020 election. Hobbs claimed to Axios that the state legislature doesn’t want her office to use funds for educating the public on election issues and laws.
“[They have] made it clear that they don’t want our office to use funds for public education,” claimed Hobbs.
Following an advisory from U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy on youth mental health, the Arizona Department of Education (ADE) encouraged educators to expand social-emotional learning (SEL) implementation. SEL encompasses a wide swath of subjects, including the controversial Comprehensive Sex Education (CSE) and Critical Race Theory (CRT), to educate children on handling emotionally-charged issues while building social and self-awareness. SEL often centers around identity, emotions, attitudes, and beliefs.
ADE suggested their free online SEL Course as a means of fulfilling Murthy’s suggestion for educators to create a positive, safe, and affirming school environment. Their course focuses on equity, cultural responsiveness, and trauma sensitive practices. ADE also suggested the PAX Good Behavior Game, only granting free access to teachers and schools.
Citing Murthy, ADE insinuated that the mental health decline in youth would become the next crisis after the pandemic if left unchecked. ADE also asserted that schools are ideal partners for parents in addressing youth social and emotional wellness.
“Educators and school professionals are uniquely positioned to partner with families to best support student social, emotional, and academic wellbeing in our classrooms and schools,” stated the department. “[ADE] encourages school communities to read the latest Surgeon General Advisory to understand the position of young people better and implement the recommendations offered in the advisory.”
Although Murthy’s advisory pressed the importance of reversing the decline in youth mental health, he did also admit that the government lacked knowledge on the long-term impact of the pandemic on children’s mental wellness. In fact, Murthy further admitted that some youths actually “thrived” during the pandemic, reporting increased sleep and family quality time, less academic stress and bullying, and improved schedule flexibility and coping skills.
“Many young people are resilient, able to bounce back from difficult experiences such as stress, adversity, and trauma,” wrote Murthy. “Although the pandemic’s long-term impact on children and young people is not fully understood, there is some cause for optimism. According to more than 50 years of research, increase in distress symptoms are common during disasters, but most people cope well and do not go on to develop mental health disorders. Several measures of distress that increased early in the pandemic appear to have returned to pre-pandemic levels by mid-2020. Some other measures of wellbeing, such as rates of life satisfaction and loneliness, remained largely unchanged throughout the first year of the pandemic. And while data on youth suicide rates are limited, early evidence does not show significant increases.”
SEL hasn’t been the only controversial educational approach supported by ADE. Earlier this year, ADE advertised $5,000 teacher grants through the Pulitzer Center for those who would implement the 1619 Project. Simultaneously, the latest ADE statewide assessment results revealed that students are failing in English and math.
Although controversial among local parents and community members, SEL doesn’t appear to cause issues at the state level.
Governor Doug Ducey supported SEL expansion recently. In August, Ducey announced that a portion of the $65 million for learning programs would go to SEL. The controversial method received $1.6 million out of $20.1 million American Rescue Plan dollars.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobb nominated a Phoenix elementary school teacher for a national youth leadership award for her classroom activism rooted in and related to SEL.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs is coming under attack from within her own party over her involvement in events which led a federal jury to award $2.75 million in damages this week to a former policy advisor Hobbs helped fire in 2015.
That staff member, Talonya Adams, had brought it to the attention of Democratic Senate leaders that as a Black female she was being paid significantly less than policy advisors who were White males. Adams had also documented those other staffers received pay raises while she had not, despite no negative performance reviews.
That put Adams’ claims of pay disparity on the shoulders of Hobbs, who was Senate Minority Leader in 2015, making her the top ranking Democrat in the state Senate at the time. And when Adams was terminated a short while later, there was undisputed evidence that Hobbs was intimately involved in the process.
There have been two trials in U.S. District Court stemming from Adams’ federal racial discrimination and retaliatory termination firing lawsuit. In both, juries found in favor of Adams, and this week that second jury’s award of $2.75 million far exceeded the first jury’s award of $1 million.
There was little public attention to Hobbs’ role in the Adams case during the first trial in 2019 despite Hobbs serving as Secretary of State, which puts her in line to be Governor if anything happens to Doug Ducey.
But with Hobbs seeking the Democratic nomination for Arizona Governor, her actions just a few years ago as Senate Minority Leader are coming under intense scrutiny. Even within her own party.
Especially after Hobbs allowed her gubernatorial campaign spokeswoman to issue a press release after the jury’s unanimous verdict. Not only is the statement in the words of the spokeswoman Jennah Rivera instead of Hobbs, but the statement fail to express any concern for Adams.
That statement turned Adams’ struggles into a campaign ad for Hobbs, with criticism of how diversity and wage inequity is currently handled by the Republican-controlled Legislature. Nowhere does Rivera own up to the fact Hobbs was in meetings with other Democrats in 2015 figuring out how to fire Adams just weeks after the employee complained about her pay.
And then there is the claim in Rivera’s statement about how Hobbs “voluntarily” testified. Hours later, Adams tweeted a copy of the federal subpoena which had been served on Hobbs requiring her presence in court for the trial.
In June, Hobbs explained her decision to run for governor by stating she wanted to “deliver transparency, accountability, and results for Arizonans — just like I’ve done my whole career.”
That has left one prominent Democrat calling for a sincere review of Hobbs’ actions both in 2015 and today in dealing with the Adams’ case.
“We need to have an open and honest discussion about what happened, who is accountable, and if we, as Democrats, are prepared to support a nominee for governor who behaved in this manner just a few short years ago,” said former Rep. Aaron Lieberman,
Lieberman, who is considered Hobbs’ top challenger for the Democratic nomination for governor, also says that the Democratic platform on equality and fair treatment for all needs to be more than a campaign motto.
“Being an effective Democratic leader is about more than just participating in partisan fights; it is about holding a key set of values and living those values all the time—especially when no one is watching,” said Lieberman.
We should be doing everything we can to ensure election integrity moving forward. Too many Americans have lost faith and trust in our election system. And while the results of the last election are done, that doesn’t mean we can’t learn lessons from November 2020 and apply them going forward.
Someone should tell that to Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs. Last month, Hobbs released a draft of a new elections manual. This manual establishes the election procedures that are to be used by the counties in Arizona for accepting and tabulating votes.
If approved, the manual would go into effect next year…when Democrat Katie Hobbs will be running for governor.
Problems with the elections manual
While the Arizona Free Enterprise Club is currently conducting a thorough review of the manual to identify any issues and concerns, one major problem has already arisen. In her manual, Hobbs proposes counting votes for certain offices, like president or statewide offices including governor, even if the voter shows up and votes at the wrong precinct.
But a rule like this opens the door to extensive fraud. And it’s why the United States Supreme Court ruled against this sort of thing just a couple months ago.
Do you remember that? Apparently, Katie Hobbs forgot. Or maybe she just wants to protect her own interests.
In Brnovich v. Democratic National Committee, the nation’s highest court ruled 6-3 in favor of Arizona’s ban on ballot harvesting and the state’s requirement that individuals vote in their assigned precinct for their votes to count…
At the end of June, the state legislature passed a $1.8 billion tax cut, the single largest tax cut in Arizona history. And Governor Ducey didn’t waste any time before signing the budget, which shouldn’t come as a big surprise. As Senator Mesnard explained while voting in favor of the budget:
At the end of the day, when this passes, every single taxpayer in Arizona will get a cut. Every single one.
It was certainly a day worth celebrating. But not everyone joined the party.
Apparently, Invest in Arizona, a political committee sponsored by Arizona Education Association and Stand for Children, isn’t happy with the idea of every Arizona taxpayer receiving a cut. In an effort to block the historic tax cuts, the group filed three referendums that include components from three bills passed this legislative session: