Senator Kelly Remains Indecisive on Filibuster Abolition

Senator Kelly Remains Indecisive on Filibuster Abolition

By Corinne Murdock |

Senator Mark Kelly (D-AZ) has kept up a consistent front of indecisiveness concerning whether he supports or rejects abolishing the filibuster rule. The latest from the senator came from remarks to Politico on Monday, in which he alluded that he would take abolition into serious consideration if a “real proposal” were introduced. According to Kelly, fellow Democrats haven’t made decisiveness possible because the proposals discussed change “almost weekly.”

Even in the event a real enough proposal comes to fruition, Kelly shied away from any insinuation of partiality to one solution or another, promising to take into account the country’s “best interests.” If Kelly explained what those “best interests” were, Politico didn’t report them. 

All throughout the pandemic, Kelly hasn’t been able to give a solid answer to reporters on the filibuster. The National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) compiled a comprehensive record of Kelly’s remarks to the press on the subject from June 2020 to present. Some of the senator’s closest indicators to a stance on abolishing the filibuster came about in September 2020. Kelly didn’t treat it as a serious solution but rather a political talking point. 

“I mean, [the filibuster] really shouldn’t be part of the discussion. It’s also very hypothetical and it’s kind of more of the same stuff from a broken Washington,” said Kelly at the time. 

Progressive Change Campaign Committee co-founder Adam Green responded to the Politico coverage with an insinuation that Kelly was feigning indecisiveness. Green, a progressive activist powerhouse, had replied to a disgruntled Democrat supporter vowing to stop funding Kelly over his indecisiveness.

“He is fine. Don’t believe this stuff,” wrote Green. 

Prior to Kelly’s election, Green expressed doubt that Kelly was a solid choice for the Senate. Green told The Intercept in 2019 that Congressman Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07) was a better fit. 

During a Tuesday speech at Atlanta University Center, a historically black college in Georgia, President Joe Biden characterized the filibuster as a threat to democracy. The president claimed that he’s an “institutionalist,” which is why he wants to destroy the institution. Institutionalists prioritize traditional organizations at any expense. 

“Sadly, the United States Senate — designed to be the world’s greatest deliberative body — has been rendered a shell of its former self.  It gives me no satisfaction in saying that, as an institutionalist, as a man who was honored to serve in the Senate,” said Biden. “But as an institutionalist, I believe that the threat to our democracy is so grave that we must find a way to pass these voting rights bills, debate them, vote.”

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

Letters Outline Objections To DOJ Comments About Senate Audit

Letters Outline Objections To DOJ Comments About Senate Audit

By Terri Jo Neff |

Four members of the U.S. Congress -including two from Arizona- sent a letter this week to the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) criticizing one of its deputies for “unnecessarily” weighing in on the Arizona State Senate’s ongoing audit of Maricopa County’s election process.

Representatives Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar, both Republicans from Arizona, and Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Florida) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Georgia) call a May 5 letter from DOJ attorney Pamela Karlan to Senate President Karen Fann “an attempt at intimidation, with the goal of convoluting this important audit.”

Fann is one of two state senators who signed a subpoena in January which led to Maricopa County officials being required to turn over election department records, hundreds of voting machines, and the nearly 2.1 million ballots cast by Maricopa County voters in the 2020 General Election. Karlan’s letter suggested either the Senate or the auditors may be in noncompliance with federal law, and that the elections records and the ballots “are at risk of damage or loss.”

According to Biggs, Gaetz, Gosar, and Taylor Greene, many of Karlan’s comments were previously expressed by what the four representatives call “three left-leaning organizations,” suggesting the DOJ is “more concerns with your political fellow-travelers than election integrity.”  The May 17 letter signed by the four representatives also told Karlan they are “confident in the integrity” of the ongoing audit which is set to run through the end of June.

“In a constitutional republic, the most important thing you can do is make sure the integrity of our election system is protected, free, transparent, and open,” their letter states.

That letter to Fann is not the first received by the senate president in connection to Karlan’s concerns about the audit. On May 7, the Public Interest Legal Foundation (PILF) sent a letter to Fann urging her to push back on Karlan’s concerns, which PILF President J. Christian Adams and PILF Litigation Counsel Maureen Riordan characterize as threats.

Adams and Riordan told Fann that Karlan “is doing the bidding of, and acting as a surrogate for, the Democratic Party, not as an objective law enforcement official and representative of the U.S. Department of Justice.”  They added that Karlan “is engaging in a partisan abuse of power well outside the traditions of the Department as well as the delegation of power under federal statutes and the controlling legal authority governing those statutes.”

PIFL, a 501(c)(3) public interest law firm, urged the Senate President to resist responding to Karlan’s “inappropriate and unjustified letter” and offered to share additional insights into the DOJ’s alleged politically motivated effort if Fann is interested. As of press time Fann had not replied to the PIFL letter, according to the group’s spokesperson.

Bill Withdrawn to Limit Government Officials from Changing Election

Bill Withdrawn to Limit Government Officials from Changing Election

By Corinne Murdock |

A bill proposing to strengthen election integrity was withdrawn from a Senate committee this week, after passage in the House. It was introduced by State Representative Jake Hoffman (R-Queen Creek).

The bill would have prohibited any government officials from changing election-related dates, on the threat of a class 6 felony. Specifically, no state officers or agents, political subdivisions, or agencies could modify deadlines, filing dates, submission dates, or any other statutory election dates.

Class 6 felonies are the least harsh of all felonies, and may entail a year’s prison time.

The bill passed the House in a close, party-line vote 31-29.

An amendment to the bill would provide an exception to the proposed bill if a court ruling were to come into play. However, it would prohibit election officials from agreeing to modify deadlines and other election-related dates as part of a settlement agreement.

Last year, the state saw a spike of over 52,000 voters added to the rolls after an 18-day extension for voter registration. The initiative was cut short after a federal appeals court ordered the extension to end over a week early. Even with the order, the court allowed citizens a two day grace period to continue registering.

The challenge to the extension largely arose from the additional burdens that such an extension caused to local election officials. The extension would have allowed voters to register up to a little more than one week out from Election Day. In the past, election officials had nearly a month before the election to process registrants.

Currently, the state is pending an audit for the 2020 election. The audit would focus on Maricopa County, where The Senate hired four companies to review around 2.1 million Maricopa County ballots. Last November, the Senate issued subpoenas for all county ballots and voting machines for another audit. A federal judge ruled that the county didn’t have to comply with that request, since the Senate had improperly filed it.

Once the Senate refiled, legislators and county officials engaged in a heated battle over transparency. The judge quickly ruled on the side of the Senate.

It is unclear the reason for the bill’s withdrawal. Following the 2020 election, Hoffman was banned from Twitter and Facebook.

Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.

Senate Passes Bill To Require Petitions Be Read And Understood Before Signing

Senate Passes Bill To Require Petitions Be Read And Understood Before Signing

By Corinne Murdock |

The Arizona House is now considering whether petition signatures should be rendered void if the signer didn’t listen to or read the description. The Senate passed SB1531 on Monday in a tight, party-line vote of 16-14. State Senator J.D. Mesnard (R-Chandler) introduced the bill, with State Senator Vince Leach (R-Tucson) as the co-sponsor.

Petition descriptions can measure up to 100 words, per the law. If passed by the House, petition circulators would have to either offer to read the petition aloud to each potential signer, or allow the potential signer “sufficient time” to read the description. To further ensure that the potential signer is aware of this requirement, the petition itself must state that the description must be either heard or read. The circulator must also make the person signing aware of that requirement. Circulators would also be required to ask the individuals to confirm that they heard or read the description, as well as that they understood the description before signing.

In the event that an individual doesn’t hear or read the description, then the circulator would be required to void that signature. The Secretary of State would review the submitted petition and remove all voided signatures from it.

Although the bill didn’t mention any repercussions or further checks in place that would apply to circulators who don’t follow it, current law does require that circulators sign an affidavit swearing to the validity of the petition signatures.

One failed amendment by State Senator Juan Mendez (D-Tempe) would have extended the reach of the proposed bill to include petitions for nominating candidates.

During the Senate Government hearing, Mesnard explained that this bill is necessary because petitioners will lie to signers about what their petition constitutes. He described the “common practice” of circulators employing a sort of bait-and-switch tactic, pressuring an individual to sign a petition they may not fully be in agreement with. Mesnard called the method a “drive-by signature gathering.”

“They only know what the petition gatherer tells them. So what this is saying is that they’ve got to tell them what’s in it, like, read the summary not, you know, give their own spin on the thing,” explained Mesnard.

Arizona already requires that petition circulators disclose whether they are paid or not. However, there aren’t laws preventing circulators from unintentionally or intentionally misleading potential signers on what a petition actually constitutes.

Opposition to the bill argued that it created unnecessary hurdles for citizens to engage in the legislative process.

During the final vote, State Senator Jamescita Pehlakai (D-Window Rock) stated that this bill would pose obstacles to democracy. She cited the hardships imposed to get petitions to citizens in districts such as hers, which would take a significant amount of time to travel. Pehlakai added that non-English speakers might have issues with understanding, reading, or listening to the description.

“This is one of those bills that I guess in seeking to have folks be informed of what they’re signing actually does the exact opposite,” stated Pehlakai. “A lot of the people are really informed, so when they see me with my table and my canopy. They might already know the issues and want to sign. This would take so much more time depending on what needs to be read to them[.]”

State Senator Kirsten Engel (D-Tucson) suggested that reading or hearing the description wasn’t necessary for a voter’s understanding. She stated that this bill would come across as lecturing the voters and “treating them like two-year-olds.”

“I find that very paternalistic. It’s not up to us to decide when a voter has sufficient information about something, and it’s certainly not up to us to deputize the circulator to make that determination,” stated Engel.

Steele alluded that this bill to require more information be presented readily to potential petition signers imposed limitations on individuals’ ability to vote.

“So, this morning I heard the words of President Joe Biden. And, they’re so beautiful and so simple, and usually some of the wisest things we hear come in a very simplistic phrase,” stated Victoria Steele (D-Tucson). “‘If you have the best ideas, you have nothing to hide. Let more people vote.’”

The House is now considering the bill. It was assigned to committee on Wednesday.

Corinne Murdock is a contributing reporter for AZ Free News. In her free time, she works on her books and podcasts. Follow her on Twitter, @CorinneMurdock or email tips to corinnejournalist@gmail.com.