The Daily Agenda: Hobbs goes to Washington
Election workers are frontline workers too ... You can vote from jail ... And we're hoping it's a #BonesDay.
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs told the U.S. Senate Committee on Rules and Administration yesterday that the barrage of threats and harassment that election workers faced following the 2020 election hasn’t stopped, and the federal government needs to stiffen laws protecting workers on the frontline of democracy.
During a hearing on emerging threats to election administration, Hobbs and other election officials recounted the threats they’ve faced since Donald Trump refused to concede the 2020 election and convinced his followers, against all evidence, that the election was rigged.
“Two weeks after the election, armed protesters gathered outside my home and chanted, ‘Katie, come out and play, we’re watching you,’” she said. “I never expected that holding this office would result in far-right trolls threatening my children, threatening my husband’s employment at a children’s hospital, or calling my office and saying I deserve to die and asking, ‘What is she wearing today? So she’ll be easy to get.’”
Hobbs noted that next week will mark a year since the 2020 election, but that some unfortunately refuse to believe it’s over. (At the same time as the hearing, a small crowd of audit flunkies huddled outside of Attorney General Mark Brnovich’s office, demanding mass arrests of those who rigged the election.)
The hearing largely focused on turnover among election officials and fears that the wave of resignations is just beginning as more election workers reach their breaking points.
But Democrats on the committee also used it to promote the Freedom to Vote Act, a broad election reform bill that would make a host of federal election changes — including many of the provisions in HR1, a sweeping piece of legislation from U.S. House Democrats that touches on voting rights — as well as stiffen criminal penalties for threatening election workers.
No congressional Republicans have signed on to support the bill, but Al Schmidt, a Republican member of the Philadelphia City Commission, which oversees elections there, urged the Senators to take up additional protections for election workers, at least, saying he and his family have received death threats and worse.
“Let’s be clear, this is domestic terrorism. The whole point is to terrorize, to intimidate and to coerce, and to prevent our democracy from functioning as it should,” he said. “This is a nationwide problem that demands a national response.”
While the Republicans on the committee condemned the threats, harassment and intimidations that Hobbs and other elections officials face, they argued that federalizing elections with the host of top-down election provisions included in the bill would be counterproductive to boosting faith in the election system.
But the real star of the hearing was Michael Adams, Kentucky’s Republican Secretary of State, who urged lawmakers to follow Kentucky’s lead in developing bipartisan solutions.
He didn’t shy away from casting the blame for election (and COVID-19) misinformation, but pointed to his home state, where he and the Democratic governor worked together to ask the legislature for emergency powers to change election procedures during the pandemic.
Those changes actually increased voting access. (Though, to be fair, Kentucky had some of the most restrictive laws in the nation beforehand.) They allowed no-excuse absentee voting (vote by mail), extended in-person voting (from just one day), allowed for ballot drop boxes, and strengthened voter ID laws at the same time (and funded IDs for those who don’t have them).
Attorney General Mark Brnovich charged a man for illegally voting because he had five felony convictions and didn’t get his voting rights restored, the Arizona Capitol Times reported.
But the headline on this story — “Indictment alleges man voted in jail” — caught us off guard. And that’s because it is legal to vote when you’re in jail, provided you’re otherwise eligible to vote. In this case, the fact the man was in jail seemingly played no role in his conviction; it was his prior felonies that led to his loss of voting rights.
Over the past few years, advocacy groups have worked to improve jail-based voting and increase awareness that people can, in fact, vote from jail. But it’s still very rare for someone in jail to cast a ballot.
In addition, for people with just one felony, there’s automatic voting rights restoration after the person completes their sentence and pays any fees and restitution.
Still, less than 3% of eligible Arizona voters in jail participated in the November 2020 election, according to a report from the Arizona Coalition to End Jail-Based Disenfranchisement. The rate was even lower, 2.2%, in the August primaries last year.
Two counties — Navajo and Apache — did much better than the state average, but still didn’t top 10%. Four counties — Cochise, Greenlee, La Paz and Santa Cruz — had a jail-based voting rate of 0%.
“On the whole, Arizona counties failed miserably to provide incarcerated voters with sufficient access to voter registration information, voter education, and ballots,” the report said.
So, just so it’s clear: It’s often completely legal to vote while you’re in jail.
YIMBY: Older adults experiencing homelessness will have a new place to stay after the city approved a 130-bed shelter in an old hotel off Interstate 17 at Northern Avenue. For once, neighbors didn’t try to kill the project — as the Republic’s Jessica Boehm notes, neighborhoods that don’t want homeless shelters nearby are often the hurdle that keeps shelters from opening, not a lack of funding.
Quit, then un-quit: Page Unified School District Superintendent Larry Wallen resigned from his job after comments he made to a parent came to light, then rescinded his resignation later on. He allegedly told a parent, “your children will be fine. It's the brown kids in this district who will struggle," referring to Indigenous students, according to a report from AZFamily’s Jessica Goodman. Wallen said he was embarrassed by his comment, but noted that he’s married to a Navajo woman and his son and grandchildren are Navajo.
We may one day have an adequate amount of teachers: We mentioned the state’s new Arizona Teacher Residency program yesterday morning, but those of you who’ve been around for a while might have wondered, like we did, how the program differs from the Arizona Teachers Academy, launched in 2017. Richie Taylor, spokesman for the Arizona Department of Education, told us the teachers academy mostly pays tuition for those seeking a teaching degree. The residency program will offer more, like living stipends and mentorship, Taylor said.
Fun fact: Arizona also has an inadequate number of journalists. While you can’t solve the teacher shortage by directly funding a teacher, you can keep two reporters in business for just $7 per month.
Create a mess, then don’t clean it up: The monsoon wasn’t kind to the U.S.-Mexico border wall in Arizona. It left behind twisted parts of the metal fence and other debris, hurting the environment. Efforts by the Biden administration to clean up the mess have been slow, reports The Border Chronicle’s Melissa del Bosque.
Hike in December instead: A temporary policy that restricted some trail access on Camelback Mountain and Piestewa Peak during the hottest times of the year could become permanent, the Republic’s Perry Vandell reports. The Phoenix parks board will vote on making the policy permanent at a meeting on Thursday. We’ll add here what we always tell visitors: Don’t hike in August at noon because we don’t want to write about you being rescued.
Health care workers wear masks and get vaxxed: Health care workers weren’t the frontline workers who experienced the highest COVID-19 rates, at least not according to a new University of Arizona study. Instead, first place went to first responders, at a rate of 13.2% of study participants compared to health care workers’ 6.7%.
Some people got some new jobs: Two Arizonans are now ambassadors. The U.S. Senate confirmed appointments Tuesday for former U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake, now the ambassador to Turkey, and Cindy McCain, the widow of the late U.S. Sen. John McCain, now ambassador to the United Nations Agencies for Food and Agriculture, 12News’ Brahm Resnik points out.
If you can’t waste your time tweeting, waste it writing letters: Arizona Republican Rep. Jake Hoffman, banned from Twitter for running a troll farm, wants Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich to issue a formal legal opinion as to whether the influx of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border means the federal government has failed to “uphold its obligations to protect our state from invasion,” according to the U.S. Constitution. This is not really what AG opinions are meant for. Typically, an elected official asks the AG for legal input on a state law or local ordinance, not something in the U.S. Constitution.
Once a sheriff, always a sheriff?: The Anti-Defamation League issued a report about the Constitutional Sheriffs and Peace Officers Association and its leader, former Graham County sheriff Richard Mack. The group called the constitutional sheriffs an “anti-government extremist group whose primary purpose is to recruit sheriffs into the anti-government ‘patriot’ movement.”
Not paying our bills anymore, blaming it on the supply chain: Arizona winemakers are running into the good ol’ supply chain, making bottles, corks and labels hard to come by, KJZZ’s Jill Ryan reports.
Arizona lawmakers are keeping themselves busy with a study committee on cryptocurrencies, but two Democrats on the committee want to know if their colleagues are holding coins themselves.
Democratic Reps. Diego Rodriguez and Domingo DeGrazia yesterday called for lawmakers on the committee to disclose any significant holdings in crypto.
Which brings us to today’s tidbit: Politicians’ financial disclosure statements, which are required reading if you’re trying to get a handle on which politicians have financial interests in what, including things like sources of income, business stakes, real estate holdings and bonds.
But one of the key components was gutted in a last-minute change back in 2016, when then-Rep. J.D. Mesnard, a Republican, introduced new language to a bill to declassify junkets for politicians as gifts, and instead classify them as travel expenses, which only need to be reported if they’re above $1,000.
Almost all legislative Democrats voted for the change. We’d posit if they want to beef up financial disclosure laws to include crypto, they should also strengthen the laws requiring them to disclose their own junkets.
We don’t wanna pick on private citizen first class Martha McSally too much, but her dog Boomer was one of our favorite characters of the 2020 election. Had he run instead of McSally, we suspect he could have won.
And Boomer is back — or at least a parody Twitter account of him.
If you don’t know what a #BonesDay is, you’re in for a real treat. Noodles, a 13-year-old pug who is something of a Punxsutawney Phil for kids these days, serves as the grand oracle of TikTok. Every day, his owner lifts Noodles from bed and if he stands, it’s a bones day — put on that suit and ask for that raise. If the pug flops over, it’s a no bones day — put on the sweatpants and call into work sick.
Unfortunately, Noodles sleeps past our deadline, so you’ll just have to click on his profile to find out what kind of day lies ahead of us.
The Arizona Corporation Commission’s open meeting continues today at 9 a.m. This month features an ongoing discussion of Arizona Public Service’s rates and rules over disconnecting utility services. The agenda is here, and you can stream it online here.