The Daily Agenda: Election lie laws get knocked down
It's primetime for moderate Republicans ... It's better to be rich than to be not rich ... And it's a big day for license plates.
Housekeeping note: You can now read the Arizona Agenda in the new Substack app for iPhone. With the app, you’ll have a dedicated inbox for our Substack and any others you subscribe to. New posts will never get lost in your email filters, or stuck in spam. Longer posts will never get cut off by your email app. This is all about your reading preference; we’ll continue sending the email all the same. If you don’t have an Apple device, you can join the Android waitlist here.
We noted recently that all the Big-Lie-inspired election legislation that has been flying through the Senate Government Committee is coming to a head before the full Senate — and after watching the Senate votes this week, now seems like a good time to revisit that.
The good news is Arizona voters can depend on Republican Sen. Paul Boyer to shoot down the worst of the worst bills that make it to the floor, no matter how many threats and hate emails he receives from angry election dead-enders. The bad news is even Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, who Democrats once dubbed the “queen of voter disenfranchisement,” is starting to sound reasonable and thoughtful in comparison to the rest of her caucus.
Take Ugenti-Rita’s explanation for joining Boyer and the Democrats in shooting down Senate Bill 1119, which would require counties to post images of all ballots cast online. She noted the bill would conflict with another bill still moving through the process that also deals with ballot images (both bills are from Sen. Sonny Borrelli, a superspreader of election disinformation) and argued haphazard lawmaking doesn’t result in good policy.
“I would prefer if we had a more specific idea of how we want to address issues before we just put all this stuff up on the board,” she said. “It’s havoc, it doesn’t yield good results, and I think last week demonstrated that this stuff has unintended consequences. The language of bills matters and means something.”
As we’ve written, we don’t even particularly think posting ballot images online is a bad idea — but having three different and conflicting bills to do it three different ways is emblematic of the Arizona Senate’s rush to do something, anything, all the things at once, to prove to the loudest election deniers that Republican senators take their conspiracies seriously.
Or at least most Republican senators do. But with the slim majorities Republicans hold in both chambers, any dissenter can stop a bill.
Among the other bad election bills Boyer shot down this week (occasionally with help from Ugenti-Rita) are:
A Sharpiegate-inspired bill to prevent Sharpie markers from being used to fill out ballots (even though that’s the preferred method from the voting machine manufacturer)
A bill to beef up the attorney general’s powers to investigate alleged election malfeasance, which comes as the AG is investigating the claims made in the Cyber Ninjas “audit”
A bill to make it harder for people who move frequently to vote
And a bill to force the auditor general to audit elections, though it wouldn’t pay the office nearly enough to hire the 35 new full-time employees the office says it would need to do so
Still, saying that cooler heads “killed” those bills might be premature. Nothing is dead until the Legislature adjourns, and already, some senators have called for “reconsideration” of the bills shot down this week, giving them one last chance to twist some arms and change some votes.
Besides those bills coming back for a vote, there’s still a whole lot of bad election ideas still coming to the Senate floor. It’s going to be a busy few weeks as senators negotiate provisions and water down bills before votes to avoid catching Boyer’s ire. But some bills, including Republican Sen. Wendy Rogers’ bill to throw out all the Dominion voting machines, are not being watered down. We hope Boyer’s backbone can stand the pressure.
But let’s end on a good election bill that lawmakers in the Senate passed (almost unanimously!) this week. Under Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard’s SB1411, large counties would be required to post the number of early ballots they received in an election, and the number of early ballots they’ve tabulated each day following Election Day, starting in the 2024 election. Unlike many of the new requirements lawmakers are attempting to heap on counties, this one actually allocates new money to carry out the task, and it fixes a real problem.
When nobody knows how many ballots are left to count, it creates distrust among voters and confusion for the press. We’ve complained about this for a long time — without that data, it’s effectively impossible to calculate what percent of the vote a candidate needs to overcome another candidate. But more importantly, when election officials provide sloppy estimations of how many ballots are left to count, and those estimations grow over time, it gives rise to conspiracies that someone is “injecting” ballots into the system.
If lawmakers really want to instill confidence in our voting system, as they have claimed, they should lean into common sense policies like this, and away from Dominion and Sharpie conspiracies.
We hope you voted: Unofficial results for the Tempe City Council election yesterday show Arlene Chin, Jennifer Adams and Berdetta Hodge as the top three vote-getters for three open seats, though there could a runoff depending on how the final vote counts play out, the Republic’s Paulina Pineda reports.
Doing what Brno won’t: The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office appears to be interested in Republicans’ efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, as it requested records involving communications between Stop the Steal leaders, senators and the Cyber Ninja audit team they hired. Arizona’s Law tracked down a copy of a previously unreleased public records request that County Attorney Allister Adel filed last November seeking the communications.
“This goes well beyond the scope of the later subpoenas issued by Congress' January 6th Committee. Despite the differences in their scopes, they are related to the same efforts to undo the November 2020 election (that are continuing in many ways),” AZ Law blogger and Democratic state House candidate Paul Weich wrote.
Rich people get better treatment?: Phoenix residents reported thousands of homeless encampments in their neighborhoods throughout the city, most often in poorer parts of town, the Republic’s Jessica Boehm reports. Neighbors say the city does little to help with the problem, and the clusters in poorer areas makes them believe wealthier ZIP codes get treated differently when they have encampments. Notably, Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego wouldn’t do an interview for the story.
Jessica Boehm @jboehm_NEWS(THREAD) We don't talk about this enough because it's messy and complicated. But it's also true. Metro Phoenix's failure to provide suitable shelter/housing places the burden of homelessness on working-class neighborhoods. https://t.co/gUqvARTpjO
Please get this sorted so we can stop being sports reporters: The baseball lockout continues, and the start of the season got pushed out again, this time to April 13 at least, as Major League Baseball owners and players remain at a standstill on contract negotiations. That pushes Spring Training out again, if it happens at all.
They paved paradise and put up yet another high-rise: The downtown building that used to be Phoenix Public Market (with its baller happy hour) could be demolished, along with two other nearby buildings, to make way for a high-rise, the Republic’s Joshua Bowling reports. The building is 76 years old, and preservationists say the building may not be considered historic, but it’s still a vital part of the feel of the area.
Speaking of happy hours we used to be able to afford, it costs just $8 per month to become a paid subscriber to the Arizona Agenda, the scrappiest little newsletter in town.
Some help on the way: A Scottsdale-based ammunition company donated 1 million rounds of ammo to Ukraine to aid in its fight against Russia, and expects its shipment to arrive in the country this week, the Republic’s Ryan Randazzo reports.
The consequences are always unintended: The Arizona Mirror’s Jeremy Duda shows how several legal changes over the past few years and pandemic delays to Census results led to the uproar over the change to PC elections made by a bill sold as a way to adjust signature requirements after redistricting.
Hoping to identify the lost: Eleven bodies were found in burial pits near the U.S.-Mexico border by volunteers whose relatives had disappeared, according to Mexican authorities, the Associated Press reports.
Going backward in time: Criminal cases for marijuana possession by commercial vehicle drivers could give prosecutors wiggle room on filing charges despite Arizona’s legalization of adult recreational pot use, the Phoenix New Times’ David Abbott reports. The current case to watch is in Mohave County, where police say they can enforce federal law (which makes marijuana possession illegal) on state highways, despite state legalization.
At least someone likes him: Conservative writer George Will still really like Gov. Doug Ducey and heaped more praise on him in print in the Washington Post yesterday. Will goes over Ducey’s time in office — including Ducey’s reaction to the audit, which the governor called a “grift-fest” — and his resistance to running for Senate.
The burnout epidemic: Like many workers during the past two years, teachers are experiencing burnout in their jobs as they weather the pandemic and the intense pushback from parents over curriculum and pandemic measures. Some teachers said the burnout will lead them to leave their jobs sooner than they expected. Deer Valley teacher Matthew Laskin told KJZZ’s Lauren Gilger about how he’s managing his job, from Red for Ed to now.
No bank bans: The Arizona House voted down a bill from Rep. Jake Hoffman that would’ve made it so banks couldn’t consider environmental, social justice and governance practices when calculating financial risks.
From the party of freedom: Parents, advocacy groups and young people are speaking out about multiple bills that limit the freedoms of trans youth, 12News’ Brahm Resnik reports. Bills that would ban trans girls from competing in girls’ sports and prohibit gender-affirming care for minors are still moving in the Legislature.
Arizona House Democrats @AZHouseDemsA 13-year-old rock star named Skyler makes a passionate, confident, detailed and common-sense case against #SB1165. Our future is bright (especially if we can stop bills like this). https://t.co/tX6ew72b9m
In the op-ed pages today: Matt Salmon defends his comment about how teachers’ unions are a “scourge on society,” saying he loves teachers, but hates the unions. Robert Robb argues that while lawmakers shouldn’t dictate school curriculum, a bill to allow alternatives to Algebra 2 to graduate high school is cool because, really, how many of us need to know what a polynomial is? Elvia Diaz ponders what Republican Governors Association Chair Gov. Doug Ducey will do if Kari Lake becomes the GOP nominee to replace him. (Remember, even a white nationalist is better than a Democrat.) And Tim Steller likes where the Tucson City Council is heading with the idea of sanctioned homeless camps — along with “pallet shelters” and services — until the city can come up with enough property to expand its housing programs.
Some places still get rain: Nogales is expected to get nearly $9 million from the federal government to help with persistent flash flooding, though a solution still won’t be in place for several years, the Nogales International reports.
Back in his day: Former Arizona Supreme Court Justice Stanley G. Feldman, who retired from the court in 2002, laments the current state of politics, which is filled with divisive rhetoric and a lack of respect, he told the Green Valley News.
“It’s no longer just, ‘I don’t agree with you on this, and I don’t agree with you on that.’ If you don’t agree with me, you’re a liar, a thief, a this, a that. I can threaten you. I can harass you. None of that took place back in 1982,” Feldman said. “It’s just changed completely. And it's hard to get things done when people act like that.”
A small solution: A mobile farmer’s market on a bus is now coming to a part of Tempe that became a food desert after a Food City closed last year, ABC15 reports.
Wanna help a former local kid make a documentary in Douglas?: You’re in luck.
Arizona notoriously has dozens of license plate options to choose from, many of which benefit nonprofits and charity organizations. Pretty much every year, lawmakers approve new license plate options, and it becomes harder and harder to identify what’s an Arizona plate.
For years, some lawmakers have tried to make some uniformity in Arizona’s license plates, to no avail.
Senate Bill 1206 will put some guardrails in place for how our license plates look. It requires background colors of license plates to contrast with the color of letters, numbers and the name Arizona on the plate. It also requires “Arizona” to be written in a sans serif font and three-fourths of an inch high.
Sen. Tyler Pace, who sponsored the bill, said he sat on a study committee about license plates, which came to the conclusion that these standards would help identify what an Arizona plate is and aid with public safety by making the numbers easier to read.
The Senate approved the bill unanimously. The House Transportation Committee gave unanimous approval yesterday as well.
Who’s making these memes for Arizona Rep. Walt Blackman?