The Daily Agenda: Expect more recounts
And expect new conspiracies about recounts ... Another attempt to dodge public records ... And a fierce goat in Tonopah.
The Arizona Legislature’s lengthy legislative session this year means that new election laws will go into effect between the primary and general elections.
But the new laws that would’ve caused the major changes in voter registration and eligibility won’t be in effect this year because of court cases and delayed effective dates. (There were also laws approved in 2021 that affect this election, which Rachel detailed in a Votebeat story before the primary.)
In general, laws approved in a legislative session go into effect 90 days after the session ends. Lawmakers can delay that, or they can speed it up with an emergency clause. This year, the general effective date for new laws is Sept. 24. It’s not unprecedented for the date to fall within the primary and the general; it happens sometimes.
Among the new laws:
More recounts: The threshold for legally mandated recounts was raised from 0.1% to 0.5%, meaning we’ll likely see more recounts than before, given Arizona’s propensity for close elections. Senate Bill 1008, from Republican Sen. Michelle Ugenti-Rita, exempts certain races, like for school districts, fire districts and other special districts, from the new threshold. Recounts can be costly, and they take time, extending final results for key races.
Outstanding ballot counts: As we watch the vote count following Election Day, we should get some additional information on how many early ballots haven’t been counted yet, posted on county websites. But SB1329, from Republican Sen. Paul Boyer, says counties only need to provide this information “if practicable,” so we’ll see how this plays out in practice. Some counties already provide these updates on their social media channels and to the media.
Smaller changes: A host of other bills made smaller changes to election processes, including required reports of felony convictions, voting rights restorations, Game and Fish voter registration for hunting and fishing licenses, on-site early ballot tabulating on Election Day (with lots of parameters), a ban on same-day voter registration (which Arizona does not have), and a prohibition on agencies from registering people to vote unless the person requests to be registered.
Other new election laws have delayed effective dates or are tied up in court.
House Bill 2492, from Republican Rep. Jake Hoffman, would require proof of citizenship for federal-only voters. This doesn’t go into effect until Jan. 1, 2023, but is expected to go through multiple levels of the courts because it conflicts with federal law, and a similar Arizona law already made it up to the U.S. Supreme Court. Another law requires the secretary of state to send a request by the end of this year to the federal government asking that proof of citizenship be included on voter registration forms.
Another bill from Hoffman, HB2243, was temporarily halted from going into effect by the federal courts earlier this month. It would require counties to compare voter rolls to a host of other sources to clean voter registrations, but opponents contend it would kick off naturalized citizens and other voters who are eligible to vote.
Maricopa County and others already do this, but SB1411 from Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard requires counties to provide an online early ballot tracking system that shows a voter when their early ballot was received, verified and tabulated or rejected. Counties have until the end of 2023 to comply. A separate law requires the state to come up with accessible vote-by-mail options for voters who are blind by the end of this year.
SB1260, another law from Mesnard that’s the subject of a lawsuit, could be halted by a judge before the effective date. The law, which sets up various reasons a county recorder would be required to cancel a voter’s registration, also creates a felony for knowingly helping someone registered in another state vote in Arizona.
Some of the biggest potential changes to Arizona election law didn’t get enough votes at the Capitol, leaving our elections relatively the same as 2020. You can still vote by mail, use dropboxes, tabulate votes using machines — despite some lawmakers’ best efforts.
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Request the drafts, too: An Arizona State University professor tapped to review and report on Phoenix Police’s response to 2020 protests following the killing of George Floyd said he finished the report in January and said he considered it to be final by mid-February, but the city still won’t release the report via public records laws, ABC15’s Zach Crenshaw reports. The city is claiming the report isn’t finalized and said it is “working with ASU to address issues related to the report” rather than releasing it.
Water is personal: The Arizona Daily Star’s Tony Davis tells the story of water uncertainty for farmers and residents through the eyes of a longtime family farm near Yuma, where irrigation districts and the crops they sustain rely entirely on the Colorado River. Cities, meanwhile, have backup water supplies in groundwater, but also aren’t sure how much or if they’ll have to call on their residents to cut water usage soon.
Ryan Randazzo @utilityreporterUtility regulator @joconnoraz asked Chairwoman @LeaPeterson to allow a discussion of "voting machines" at their Sept. 21 meeting. She just released the agenda, and there's no such item on there. But they often revise agendas so we'll see if O'Connor still pushing for this.
Is this enough?: Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver will be suspended for a year and fined $10 million after an investigation commissioned by the National Basketball Association found he didn’t follow workplace standards, including saying the N-word when repeating other people’s statements, making comments about female employees and treating them differently, yelling and cursing at employees, and had inappropriate physical conduct with male employees. You can read the full investigative report here.
Do your research: Candidates for the Arizona Corporation Commission, which oversees public utilities amid a host of other responsibilities, debated for an hour on Monday on Arizona PBS. The Republicans running for the two open seats are Nick Myers (a policy adviser to Commissioner Justin Olson) and Kevin Thompson (a Mesa City Councilmember). Democratic Commissioner Sandra Kennedy is running for reelection alongside Tempe City Councilmember Lauren Kuby.
A true crisis: Opioid deaths hit record numbers in Arizona last year, with more than 2,000 people dying of overdoses from the drugs, a huge increase since the state passed a package of opioid laws designed to decrease overdoses and deaths in 2018. The increased deaths have been fueled by fentanyl, while deaths from heroin or prescribed opioids are decreasing, KJZZ’s Katherine Davis-Young reports.
Where your money is being used: Hundreds of kids in Pima County got free pre-K through a new program that still has room to help more children, using COVID-19 relief funds, the Tucson Sentinel’s Bennito Kelty reports. Mesa Public Schools teachers will get higher-than-expected raises, applied retroactively, using additional money the state put into education this year, the Mesa Tribune’s Scott Schumaker reports.
Things that are going up: The Phoenix metro area still has the country’s highest inflation rate, new numbers show. And since our state’s minimum wage is tied to the consumer price index, it’ll increase to $13.90 an hour starting in January. Flagstaff’s minimum wage, which is tied to increases in the cost of living, will be $16.80 per hour in January. And the average Salt River Project customer’s bill is increasing by more than $5 a month.
Border update: Political ads that use harsh rhetoric like “invasion” and call for more border security “dehumanize and vilify migrants,” advocacy organizations told the Republic’s José Ignacio Castañeda Perez. And the Border Chronicle’s Melissa del Bosque rounds up the corporate donors who give to the Republican Governors Association and the Republican Attorney Generals Association, which then fund candidates like Kari Lake and Mark Brnovich. Separately, aid workers in the borderlands say they’re seeing construction materials come to the border and worry closing gaps in the fence will drive migrants into more unsafe areas, KJZZ’s Alisa Reznick reports.
Just four years late (so far): The former home of former Arizona Gov. Raúl Castro was supposed to become a University of Arizona outpost in Nogales, dubbed the Castro Center for Border Studies and Research, but the center has still not opened despite being announced in 2017, the Nogales International’s Angela Gervasi reports. It’s not clear if or when it will open, but it was supposed to hold events, do research and be a meeting place.
Trickle-down campaigning: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer will disperse some of his own campaign funds to senators in critical, closer races, including U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly’s reelection bid, the New York Times reports. Kelly will get $1 million of a $15 million distribution to Democratic Senate campaigns.
#1 in being #1: The State Press looks at how Arizona State University has been named “#1 in innovation,” the university’s central branding message that by now is a constant meme, for eight years running. The rankings come from peer surveys, meaning other university leaders vote on which colleges they think are most innovative. Fun fact: Rachel once filed a records request for any communications about the ranking between ASU and other universities (or something to that effect, it was years ago) to see if the university had tried to convince its peers to nominate ASU. The records request basically turned up nothing.
We’ll preface this by saying that we’re not proud of ourselves for finding this hilarious, but a goat named Billy (clever!) went bananas in Tonopah, eventually peeing on a sheriff’s deputy and being hauled off in “special handcuffs” that apparently work for goats.
Let Billy live his life!