Katie Hobbs asks for Cochise supervisors to be prosecuted for delaying the election canvass


The Republican Cochise County supervisors who refused to certify the election results should be investigated and criminally prosecuted, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs said in a letter to state and county attorneys.

Without repercussions, Hobbs wrote to Attorney General Mark Brnovich and Cochise County Attorney Brian McIntyre, the decision of supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd to flout Arizona election law could encourage future violations, further eroding election integrity in the state and trespassing over the will of Arizona voters.

“Supervisors Crosby and Judd’s actions not only demonstrate a complete disregard for the law but also jeopardize Arizona’s democracy,” she wrote. “Had a court not intervened, the failure of these two Supervisors to uphold their duty would have disenfranchised thousands of Cochise County voters. This blatant act of defying Arizona’s election laws risks establishing a dangerous precedent that we must discourage.”

Crosby and Judd threw the state certification process into disarray last month when they delayed their official canvassing of the midterm election results in Cochise County, citing bogus claims that electronic tabulators didn’t meet state or federal standards. It was only after a court ordered them to complete their statutorily mandated duties that they did so on Dec. 1, days after the Nov. 28 deadline.

Their actions put the official statewide canvass in jeopardy, as Hobbs must meet a Dec. 5 deadline to certify the results. She can only push that deadline as far as Dec. 8. If she decided to go ahead with the process without the results from Cochise County, a heavily Republican region, more than 47,000 voters could have seen their ballots ignored and a number of races would have flipped in favor of Democratic candidates.

The responsibilities of county supervisors are clearly laid out in state law and the state’s Election Procedures Manual, Hobbs said, and they are non-negotiable. As well, Crosby and Judd were given ample notification of the consequences, both from her office and McIntyre.

“Supervisors Crosby and Judd knew they had a statutory requirement to canvass the election by November 28, but instead chose to act in violation of the law, putting false election narratives ahead of Cochise County’s voters,” Hobbs wrote. Hobbs, who was elected governor in the election, wrote that the two Republicans violated several state laws, with penalties ranging from a class 3 misdemeanor to a class 6 felony.

If Crosby and Judd were convicted of a felony, their right to vote would be revoked. They also stand to lose their elected office: State law deems an elected office vacant if the officeholder is convicted of a felony or any “offense involving a violation of the person’s official duties”.

This is the second call for an investigation: Earlier this week, former Attorney General Terry Goddard and Maricopa County Attorney Richard Romley wrote to Brnovich and McIntyre requesting they hold Crosby and Judd accountable for their actions.

In an emailed statement, Brnovich spokeswoman Katie Conner said their office had not yet received Hobbs’ letter.

It’s likely that Attorney General-elect Kris Mayes will make the final decision on whether to prosecute, as she takes office in January. In a statement, she said she agrees with the request from Hobbs’ office to begin an investigation and said that it is through that process that a decision on what response, if any, should be made.

“This investigation should determine whether any Arizona laws were violated, and if so, what appropriate enforcement actions should be taken,” Mayes said.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Judge throws out Abe Hamadeh’s bid to overturn Arizona election

An attempt by Abe Hamadeh, the Republican candidate for attorney general to overturn the election results in a race he lost was dismissed Tuesday afternoon because he ignored a state law requiring election challenges be filed after the election has been certified.

Hamadeh filed a lawsuit last week challenging the election, which he lost to Democrat Kris Mayes by 510 votes. State law allows candidates to contest election results, but only within five days after the official statewide canvass has been completed and a winner has been declared.

This year, the canvass is scheduled to happen Dec. 5, although that might be pushed back as far as Dec. 8, given that Cochise County refused to certify its countywide results by the Nov. 28 deadline.

Hamadeh’s attorney, Kory Langhofer, argued that the challenge should proceed because the outcome of the statewide canvass is already known.

Attorneys for Mayes and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs requested that the lawsuit be thrown out, saying it violated the laws which guide the processes for election challenges.

Late Wednesday afternoon, Judge Randall Warner agreed with that assessment. He noted that a new filing could be submitted after the statewide canvass has been certified, because it’s only through that certification that a candidate is officially “declared elected,” as the statute requires.

“The Court concludes that this matter is premature under the election contest statute, and therefore dismisses it without prejudice to the filing of an election contest after the canvass and declaration of election results have occurred,” Warner wrote in his ruling.

Warner rejected Langhofer’s argument that the lawsuit was ripe, even before the canvass, because it is inevitable that Mayes will be declared the winner. The judge noted that, because an election contest is a remedy afforded to candidates via state laws that have specific requirements, the court must abide by them.

Hamadeh’s suit alleged that the on-demand printer issues in Maricopa County, which affected around 70 polling sites, cost him the race, and that a combination of illegal votes for Mayes and thwarted votes for him led to an undeserved win for the Democratic nominee. Notably, his lawsuit did not include any evidence to back those claims and Langhofer admitted during an initial hearing on Monday that he would need a myriad of records from counties across the state to prove the alleged wrongdoing.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Arizona LGBTQ families fear Republican victories will lead to 'erasure'

In light of the past year’s anti-LGBTQ legislation and political rhetoric, LGBTQ parents and advocates are worried Tuesday’s election could bring more of the same unless voters choose pro-equality candidates.

Derrick Fiedler moved his family from Iowa to Arizona when his 10-year-old son came out as trans, looking for a safer and more welcoming community. Confronting even more anti-trans sentiment after that was disappointing and exhausting, and he fears it still isn’t the end.

“I feel like what they accomplished this year is just the beginning. It’s just a foothold to start passing more and more extreme bills,” he said.

Over 200 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures across the country. Arizona’s GOP-controlled legislature passed several of its own, including bills barring trans girls from participating in school sports, prohibiting trans minors from receiving gender-affirming surgeries and allowing parents access to any school records of their children, which critics say puts LGBTQ students at risk of being outed.

As bad as the new laws are for trans children, it could have been worse. The law banning surgery on trans youth initially would have banned all gender-affirming care, including puberty blockers and hormone therapy, which have been found to help improve mental well-being among trans youth. That version was blocked, in part, by a lone Republican vote.

But that Republican, state Sen. Tyler Pace, was defeated by a Trump-endorsed right-wing candidate, and Fiedler is worried GOP lawmakers will now have the votes to ban all health care for trans children. If that happens and his son can’t access treatment, the Fiedler family would consider moving — again.

“It just feels like it’s going to always be a fight,” Fiedler lamented.

Bridget Sharpe, director of Arizona’s branch of the Human Rights Campaign, the nation’s largest LGBTQ advocacy group, said the record wave of discriminatory legislation is a hostile move against the LGBTQ community and the only solution to prevent it from gaining further traction is to elect candidates who will support legislation that protects the LGBTQ community.

“There have been several pieces of legislation passed that are clearly anti-trans youth, anti-LGBTQ altogether,” Sharpe said. “There’s clearly a move to try and eliminate our community or at least scare us back into the closet. Our goal is to elect leaders in positions that have the opportunity to support our community and pass legislation that’s positive.”

At the federal level, that means enough Democrats to make good on the party’s promise to pass the Respect for Marriage Act into law, which would codify the right to same-sex marriage. That would preempt any future attempt from the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the right, as it indicated an interest in doing when it overturned Roe v. Wade and struck down the constitutional right to abortion. With enough support, Sharpe hopes the Equality Act, which would prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, sexuality or gender identity in public accommodations like housing, employment, education and federal funding, could be successfully passed. Multiple versions of the act have been introduced since 2015, but all have failed to move forward.

Losing the Democratic Party’s tenuous foothold in either congressional chamber would mean not only wasting all the work pushing through the Respect for Marriage Act, but would also open the way for anti-LGBTQ legislation at the federal level, Sharpe warned. Last year, a Republican-led effort threatened to withhold funding from athletics programs allowing trans students to participate and in August, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor-Greene introduced legislation making it a federal crime for doctors to provide gender-affirming care to trans minors.

“There’s this push towards creating legislation that we haven’t had to worry about because of the makeup of Congress, (and) that’s very concerning,” Sharpe said.

At the state level, legislation discriminating against trans youth is just the beginning, warned Abby Jensen, the legal director for the Southern Arizona Gender Alliance.

Jensen, who is a trans woman, fears Republicans will pass additional laws designed to make it increasingly difficult to exist as a trans person by adding more hoops to gender identity and name changes on legal documents. That’s a dangerous prospect when as much as 40% of trans people who don’t have an identification that matches their perceived gender experience harassment.

“Making it simple to access those kinds of changes has a significant effect on trans people to live as who they are,” Jensen said. “Their ultimate goal is to erase us from existence.”

The most direct way to rebuff attempts to introduce more roadblocks into the lives of LGBTQ people and repeal laws passed in the spring would be for Democrats to win control of state government.

But that’s a tall order in Arizona, where Democrats have controlled the Governor’s Office for only six years since 1991 and haven’t controlled both legislative chambers since 1966.

For 15-year-old Daniel Trujillo, however, voting in more pro-LGBTQ candidates is imperative to creating a safer future for him and other trans minors.

“Having legislators and elected officials that are committed to trans youth matters because it gives us hope that we will live in a discrimination free world and that kids like me can live safely in the state of Arizona,” he said at a Human Rights Campaign event in early October.

Daniel’s mother, Lizette Trujillo, is keenly aware of how in jeopardy her son’s rights are if the political landscape stays in the status quo. She and Daniel became fixtures at legislative hearings on anti-trans bills in the spring, calling on legislators to vote against them. Lizette is particularly concerned with the rhetoric that makes up the discussions. She worries that the continued ramping up of anti-trans talking points from Republicans will result in violence in the same way that anti-immigrant rhetoric contributed to the El Paso shooting.

“I worry that this harmful portrayal that they’ve painted of trans people will lead someone to harm trans people — people who are already marginalized and already experience violence at higher proportions,” she said.

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Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

How a new bloc of voters could swing Arizona midterms

A wave of new voters in Arizona is expected to join the swing state’s midterm elections — and voting and immigration advocacy groups say it could help determine the result.

From 2016 to 2020, 63,857 people were naturalized in the state, according to a report released by the National Partnership for New Americans, a coalition of immigrant and refugee rights groups. While this represents a slight drop from the more than 73,000 naturalized between 2010 and 2014, NPNA maintains that it still outperforms the 10,457 vote margin by which President Joe Biden won his election in the state.

This influx of newly naturalized voters promises to throw a wrench into the plans of anti-immigrant politicians, advocates say. Studies indicate that newly anointed Americans from minority groups — which comprise the bulk of new citizens — have a higher rate of political participation than their native-born counterparts. Latino and Asian immigrants, especially, have higher rates of political participation than native-born Latinos and Asian Americans. And among Latinos, immigration is a top concern, with 82% of them in favor of pro-immigrant policies.

“With so many anti-immigrant sentiments lingering across our nation and the current attempts to restrict our voting and civil rights, the stakes cannot be higher. This powerful multiracial, multigenerational voting bloc will be driven to the polls by different viewpoints, experiences, and issues that impact our communities, truly making them an electoral force to reckon with,” said Nicole Melaku, executive director of NPNA, which also works to encourage new citizens to vote.

In Arizona, the new voting bloc skews younger, female and Latino.

Approximately 56% of newly naturalized citizens are of voting age and under 45 years old, and 57% are women.

They come from multiple countries, but lean heavily Latino. As much as 55% of newly naturalized citizens are from the Americas, which include Latin America and the Caribbean. The top country represented among them is Mexico, with just under 29,000 hailing from the southern neighbor. The second largest region of origin is Asia, at 29%, with India as the highest contributor after Mexico, at 3,197. Iraq and the Philippines follow closely behind.

The authors of the report note that the number of newly naturalized citizens ready to vote in the midterm elections would be greater if not for an immigration processing backlog. More than 10,000 applications were pending in Arizona at the end of December of 2021, which is the most recent time for which data are available.

The national average processing delay is 11 months, but delay averages at both United States Citizenship and Immigrations Services offices in Arizona outstrip that. In the Phoenix Office, 80% of applications take 13 and a half months to process and in Tucson, 80% of them take a full 14 months to complete.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Whiplash: Arizona Free and Fair Elections Act won’t be on the ballot after last-minute math changes

A ballot initiative to reform elections and campaign finance laws was barred from the November ballot on Friday afternoon by the Arizona Supreme Court after a week of legal activity that saw the measure’s fate reversed.

When the dust settled, the Arizona Free and Fair Elections Act, which sought to make sweeping changes to Arizona’s election and campaign finance laws, fell just 1,458 signatures short of qualifying for the November ballot.

A day earlier, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Mikitish ruled the ballot had 2,281 more valid signatures than the 237,645 it needed to appear on the general election ballot.

But late Thursday, the Supreme Court said it was unable to verify Mikitish’s math and ordered him to clarify it on Friday morning. When he did, Mikitish revised his calculations and concluded that the initiative fell short, disqualifying it from the ballot. The Supreme Court affirmed that ruling a few hours later, despite an appeal from Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections, which backed the bill, claiming that Mikitish’s new math was flawed.

Stacy Pearson, the group’s spokeswoman, said the outcome was disappointing, and serves as evidence that the provisions in the ballot initiative are sorely needed in Arizona. Among the measure’s many proposals were ones that would make it harder for opponents to use the courts to remove initiatives from the ballot.

“It would have prevented judicial interference in direct democracy, and judicial interference literally ended this option for direct democracy,” she said.

In an emailed statement, Pearson said the court’s decision to invalidate the initiative was the direct result of conservative backlash.

“Voters turned in 475,000 signatures — double the 237,645 requirement. But, Governor Ducey’s expanded and stacked Supreme Court found a way to invalidate over 50% of the signatures,” she said.

In 2016, Ducey and the GOP controlled legislature expanded the Supreme Court from five to seven judges. Pearson noted that the decision was out of step with both voter sentiment and previous rulings, given how many signatures were gathered in support, and the approval ofthe Secretary of State, 14 county recorders and Mikitish himself

The Arizona Fair Elections Act would have struck down several GOP-backed election laws and practices that critics say have led to voter disenfranchisement. Its many reforms included a ban on legislative audits of elections (like the so-called state Senate “audit” of Maricopa County’s 2020 election), automatic voter registration when people apply for drivers licenses or state IDs, and the restoration of the Permanent Early Voter List, or PEVL — weakened last year by a law requiring election officials to kick voters off the rolls when they miss multiple elections. As much as 90% of registered voters in Arizona use the system to vote by mail.

The initiative also proposed dramatic changes to funding streams for candidates running for political office. It slashed campaign contributions from individuals and political action committees from $6,250 to $1,000 or $2,500, depending on which office a candidate is aiming for. At the same time, the initiative boosted the funding of publicly financed candidates using the state’s Clean Elections system by twice the current amount.

Scot Mussi, president of Arizona Free Enterprise Club, called the initiative “radical” and said the included provisions would threaten election integrity in the state. Same-day voter registration, which was included in the initiative, is particularly dangerous, he said, because it could allow people to vote multiple times or even vote when they’re not eligible.

The initiative included guidelines for registering on Election Day. It required that voters certify via signature and under penalty of perjury (punishable by three years in prison, under state law) that they haven’t voted elsewhere. They would have also been required to meet current registration requirements, which includes providing a voter’s name, address, date of birth and some form of identification.

Mussi also took issue with increasing the Clean Elections financing system to support publicly financed political candidates, which he said forces voters to subsidize campaigns they may not back.

“It’s forcing taxpayers to pay for speech that they may or may not believe in,” he said.

Arizona voters created Clean Elections in 1998, making the state one of the first in the nation to implement a publicly funded campaign finance system. Almost all of the funding for Clean Elections comes through court fees; none of it comes from taxes.

Mussi said the restoration of PEVL also harms voters, as it costs money to send early ballots to voters who don’t use them or have moved.

“We should not just be sending ballots out in perpetuity,” he said. “We need to clean up the system.”

Current law directs county recorders to verify voter addresses by May 1, ahead of an upcoming general or primary election. If a voter has moved, recorders update that information and send a mailed notice of the change. Voters have 35 days to respond. If they don’t, their registration is put under inactive status and ballots won’t be mailed. Multiple years as inactive will require voters to re-register.

Ultimately, relaxing voter access to the ballot box isn’t a good idea, despite what supporters of the initiative may say, according to Mussi, who said Arizona’s existing election laws dissuade fraud.

“(They) ensure we have an easy to vote, hard to cheat system,” he said.

Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections, however, disagrees with Mussi’s assessment. The work will continue, Pearson said, especially because efforts to stifle voter-led democracy are ongoing. She pointed to the measures that Republican lawmakers sent to the November ballot as proof. Proposition 129 requires ballot initiatives to be limited to a single subject, while Proposition 132 requires initiatives to garner 60% supermajorities for voters to enact tax changes. Both make it harder for Arizonans to add initiatives to future ballots that voters themselves approved.

“Despite this setback, Arizona voters will never give up our fight to protect our freedoms and the will of the people. We will turn out in November to vote NO on Propositions 128, 129, and 132 to safeguard future ballot initiatives in Arizona, and continue organizing in support of the pro-voter policies in the Free and Fair Elections Act,” Pearson said in an emailed statement.

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

A Republican candidate’s bold pitch: Arizona should give all teachers a $10,000 pay raise

A Republican legislative candidate is proposing a $10,000 pay raise for every teacher in Arizona, but the president of the state’s largest teacher’s union isn’t convinced.

Matt Gress, a candidate for the state House of Representatives aiming to represent District 4 in northeast Phoenix, announced his “Pay Teachers First” plan on Monday, centered around an immediate and permanent $10,000 pay raise for Arizona teachers. Gress, a former teacher who now works as Gov. Doug Ducey’s budget director, said salaries are a pressing concern for teachers in Arizona, which consistently ranks near the bottom in teacher compensation.

“When I was a teacher, I struggled to make ends meet and was (paying) out-of-pocket (for) many resources needed for my students. Teachers don’t go into this profession to get rich, but they also aren’t expected to live in poverty, either. Our students rightfully deserve the best education, and our teachers rightfully deserve to be valued,” Gress said in a statement on his campaign website.

But Marisol Garcia, president of the Arizona Education Association, has heard politicians make promises before — particularly in election years.

“Every even year, this happens. Potential candidates decide to say something, propose something that sounds amazing. What happens is that, once they’re elected, they change their tune very quickly,” she said.

With as much as 88% of voters in support of increasing teacher pay, campaign announcements to do so are easy bait, Garcia said. Her organization remains skeptical of the follow-through, especially when legislators have historically worked against school funding initiatives.

“The folks that (Gress) labeled as being very much in support of this are the same people that did everything they could to stop (Proposition) 208,” she said.

Prop. 208, a tax increase approved by voters in 2020 to increase school funding, was struck down by the Arizona Supreme Court after GOP legislative leaders challenged it. Before the case was decided, Republican legislators in February stalled on a vote to allow schools to spend money in their budgets, which would have shut down Arizona schools, out of concern it would allow Prop. 208 to go into effect.

The AEA, Garcia said, has proposed solutions to resolve the state’s ongoing teacher shortage, with little support from legislators. In May, it proposed a $1.7 billion increase in school funding that gained no traction. Schools later faced a frustrating uphill battle when legislators were initially unwilling to mobilize the state’s record surplus to benefit schools.

Another point of contention for Garcia is that Gress’ statement appears to take aim at administrative spending, declaring that the money wouldn’t go to “bureaucracy.”

The stance that teacher salaries have suffered because of rising administrative costs is misinformed, Garcia said. School administrators make decisions that affect everyday functions.

“They’re the folks that make sure my son crosses the street safely, or who make sure my son gets a healthy lunch. (They) make sure my son has technology that works, and that he has a counselor available,” she said.

In an interview with the Arizona Mirror on Tuesday, Gress acknowledged that school administration plays an important role in the education of students across the state. But the greatest resources for students are their teachers, he said, and that resource is endangered.

“We have a teacher workforce shortage. We have a teacher crisis. The state needs to step up with some bold action. The most effective input into a child’s education is at the front of the classroom,” he said.

There are as many as 2,000 teacher vacancies and 800 unfilled special education teacher openings.

To qualify for the extra funding in Gress’ proposal, schools must report information about academics, budgeting and spending to the auditor general. Garcia said this is simply another example of villainizing public schools over a supposed lack of transparency. (School budgets are approved by school boards at public meetings, and boards make regular reports on what education or budgeting decisions are being made.)

“That information is readily available to anybody who requests it,” she said, “That’s another example of politicizing this, saying that we don’t know how the money is being spent. Yes, we do — it’s a public institution.”

Requiring schools to compile data in yet another format, Garcia said, takes administrative manpower that incurs time and money, which Gress’ plan doesn’t include funding for.

Gress disagreed, saying that the data that schools currently compile is too difficult for parents to understand. Fiscal jargon and complex spreadsheets combine to make school budgets “opaque” to the average reader, he said.

Every even year, this happens. Potential candidates decide to say something, propose something that sounds amazing. What happens is that, once they’re elected, they change their tune very quickly.

– Marisol Garcia, Arizona Education Association president

Asked whether he would consider including funding in the plan to pay schools for the extra responsibility or create a new position, Gress pointed out that schools already have plenty of employees and the information should be easy to gather, given that it’s state law to compile it. He added that the legislature increased school budgets a record amount this year, allowing them to theoretically cover the cost.

“Schools have extensive business offices, and they’re already required to report this data,” he said.

The only difference, Gress said, is that the report will be sent to the Auditor General.

Among the supporters of Gress’ plan is an elementary school board president, but no teachers. Garcia said the AEA, which represents thousands of educators across the state, wasn’t consulted to help draft the plan. And she said Gress didn’t respond to the AEA in May when the organization reached out to every candidate with a questionnaire and interviews for endorsement consideration.

Gress argued that he has ample enough experience to craft a successful proposal without input from the AEA. Five years working with stakeholders as a budget director at the state Capitol and time as a school board member — he was on the Madison Elementary School District board from 2017 until 2021 — means he understands all sides.

“I’m very familiar with working with teachers and stakeholders, having been a former school board member. I understand this issue very well and have been able to hear from thousands of Arizonans who want their teachers paid more,” he said.

Despite her concerns, Garcia said she’s still willing to sit down and work with anyone interested in making a difference for Arizona classrooms.

“The table is big and wide of people that have ideas for helping end this teacher exodus and keep people here,” she said, “We will sit at any table with anyone that is focused on great public schools for every Arizona student.”

Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Every voter’s name and ballot would be published online after every election under Arizona GOP proposal

Every voter who casts a ballot would have their name and address published online by election officials under a proposal being backed by Republican legislators.
The secretary of state would also have to say whether each voter cast their ballot early or in person on Election Day.

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The measure is one of a host of conservative responses to the false idea that rampant voter fraud occurred in the 2020 election. The bill’s sponsor, Sen. John Kavanagh, said its intent is to increase transparency.

“Nothing like a little bit of sunshine to allay people’s concerns that things are not being totally above board,” Kavanagh told the Senate Government Committee Monday.

The Fountain Hills Republican said he developed House Bill 2780 with former Secretary of State Ken Bennett, who served as the Senate’s liaison for the so-called “audit” last year. Bennett claimed that work alerted him to weaknesses in the system that have led to a lack of confidence in elections.

“Our elections need to be transparent, trackable and publicly verifiable,” Bennett said on Monday.

Republicans in Arizona and in state legislatures across the nation are pushing hundreds of measures to add barriers to voting and make it easier for them to overturn results they don’t like, often under the guise of stopping the exceedingly rare election fraud that they falsely claim is the reason why Democrats won close races in 2018 and 2020.

Former President Donald Trump has loudly and falsely asserted that his 2020 loss was due to rampant fraud, though numerous election audits and examinations across the country have failed to turn up any evidence.

Under Kavanagh’s bill, county recorders would be required to post a list of the names and addresses of all eligible voters on the county’s website 10 days before primary and general elections. That list would include both active and inactive voters.

When the bill was approved last month by the House of Representatives, county election officials would have also been required to publish the names, addresses and method of voting for every voter who cast a ballot after every election. But Republicans on the Government Committee amended the bill to shift that responsibility to the secretary of state, who would publish that information for all Arizona voters after each election.

The bill would also require all ballot images to be published, along with a way to link those ballot images to the post-election publication of voters names.

Currently, ballots undergo a complex multi-step process to be counted and verified which includes everything from public live streaming to individual barcodes for personal and official tracking.

Jen Marson, executive director of the Arizona Association of Counties, said that posting ballots online, as the bill’s original language indicated, could put election officials at risk of lawsuits because their content isn’t being redacted.

“You would be surprised what people write on their ballots,” she said.

There’s also no protection from people using the documents to accuse the counties of malfeasance, Marson said. The bill instructs county recorders to provide an identifying indicator for each ballot image to check against the actual vote record and confirm the tabulation results by ballot batch. That means anyone could potentially download an image, alter it and claim that the counties purposely miscounted it.

The committee approved the bill on a 4-2 party-line vote. Its next stop is the Senate floor, where it will be considered by the full chamber.

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Arizona Mirror is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Arizona Mirror maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Jim Small for questions: info@azmirror.com. Follow Arizona Mirror on Facebook and Twitter.

Republican-backed measure to restrict filming of police officers passes Arizona Senate committee

Legislation which would make it illegal to film police officers within eight feet of them is closer to becoming law, despite concerns that it could hinder efforts to document misconduct.

“We believe that this bill stacks the deck against the public check on officer misconduct,” Timothy Sparling, a lawyer and legislative advocate for Arizona Attorneys for Criminal Justice, said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Tuesday.

Sparling spoke against House Bill 2319, saying it leaves too much up to the discretion of the officers. The bill states that a person may not film an officer within eight feet without the officer’s permission, and allows both bystanders and those involved in the interaction to film only if such an action is not “interfering” in law enforcement activity.

“When officers have such wide discretion to determine, say, what is lawful conduct or what is unlawful conduct on the ground and that is not properly defined … it’s ultimately up to whatever the officer wants it to be,” Sparling said.

Originally, the bill prohibited filming within 15 feet, but was adjusted to reflect eight-foot moving buffer zones upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court 14 years ago between protestors and abortion clinic patients. K.M. Bell, an attorney for the Arizona chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, said that ruling doesn’t apply because the situations aren’t equivalent.

The clinic buffer zones were implemented around one area, and only after an extensive record of issues between patients and protestors, Bell said. Officers aren’t constrained to one location, and a similar record of conflict with people filming doesn’t exist.

“In that case they were private citizens seeking medical care. Here we have officers who are out in public performing their taxpayer-funded public duties,” Bell said.

The eight-foot buffer zone also doesn’t account for movement from the officers towards the person filming, which may shorten the distance and lead to them being found in violation, Bell pointed out. Neither does the bill accommodate a lack of knowledge from the person filming — not everyone can accurately judge what eight feet looks like.

Filming an officer while less than eight feet away after being asked to stop could earn a person a class 3 misdemeanor, which comes with a minimum of 30 days in jail.

Rep. John Kavanagh, who previously served as a Port Authority officer in New York and New Jersey, sponsored the bill, and called it a measure in support of law enforcement safety.

“This is about preventing violence and misunderstandings, preventing the destruction of evidence and preventing police officers from harm,” he said.

The Fountain Hills Republican responded to concerns about officers moving closer to people filming by saying that if they’re acting lawfully and standing still, there’s no reason for the officers to move towards them because they’re not considered suspicious.

Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, called that explanation “laughable”.

“I have participated in efforts to film police officers that are doing their jobs and you are absolutely a suspicious person to law enforcement at that point. And they aggressively come towards you to see why you were filming,” he said.

Quezada warned that the measure would restrict public oversight of police misconduct, and constitutes a restriction on actions that need transparency the most.

Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Lake Havasu City, brought up body cameras as efficient alternatives. Research about the ability of body cameras to reduce police use of force is uncertain, and a reduction of complaints may be the result of a reduction in complaints filed, and not so much a reduction in officer misconduct.

Ultimately, Borrelli said, filming by members of the public puts officers in jeopardy. He noted that the space between his seat on the panel and the speakers at the podium was about 15 feet, and even that, in his opinion, was far too close. There was no formal measuring of the distance.

“There needs to be some distance, the officers need to secure the scene for their own safety, for the safety of the public,” Borrelli said.

Sen. Warren Petersen, a Gilbert Republican who chairs the committee, agreed with Borrelli that distance was the matter of safety. He said that his distance from Borrelli on the panel, separated only by Sen. Wendy Rogers, R-Flagstaff, mirrored the eight-foot requirement in the bill.

“I can’t think of any compelling reason why you would need to be closer than that. In fact, you definitely lose a lot by getting closer. You’re missing the big picture, especially with how clear cameras are,” he said.

The measure was approved by the five Republican members of the committee, with the three Democrat panelists voting against it. If the full Senate approves it, the bill will go to Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.


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