Archive for the 'In The News' Category
October 28, 2008
Link to Blog
Oct. 26, 2008
The rationale behind Proposition 105 - which requires initiatives that raise taxes or spend money to pass with a majority of registered voters, not just a majority of those voting - is that tax-and-spending measures should be subject to a higher standard.
To judge just how tough a standard Proposition 105 imposes, I was curious about how many ballot measures in the state’s history, whether initiated or referred by the Legislature, had met it.
In Arizona’s very first election, in 1912, voters were enthused and turned out heavily - almost all 21,617 of them. They approved 13 ballot measures, 12 of them by a majority of those registered to vote.
After that, it wasn’t until 1968 that a ballot measure passed with a majority not just of those voting but of those registered. That was a referendum to exempt household goods from taxation.
Since then, there have been only two ballot measures that met the Proposition 105 standard, both in 1992 - one making lethal injection, rather than gassing, the only option for carrying out the death penalty; the other imposing term limits on state legislators.
So, the Proposition 105 standard isn’t just tough; it’s practically impossible. And given its expansive definition of spending, Proposition 105 does threaten to largely shut down the citizen initiative process in Arizona.
Reach Robb at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-8472. His column appears Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays. Read his blog at robbblog.azcentral.com.
October 27, 2008
Oct. 25, 2008
We have suggested Arizona voters should reject a number of the ballot measures before them in the Nov. 4 general election. But one issue stands out as both deceiving and pernicious — Proposition 105, the proposed constitutional amendment would require passage of many future initiatives by a majority of all registered voters instead of a majority of those who cast ballots for or against the measures.
We understand the concerns that brought Prop. 105 before the state. Voters do seem to decide many ballot measures under the prevailing winds of current economic and political climates, with few philosophical underpinnings and little thought about the long-term challenges in carrying out conflicting mandates and public sentiments.
Initiative sponsors appear to spend a lot more time and money on election campaigns than they devote to writing measures that actually are sound, proper and effective without wasting tax dollars.
But adopting Prop. 105 to “reform” the initiative process would be sort of like striking the right to worship or free speech from the First Amendment because they often clash with other civil rights and American values.
Prop. 105 would grant power to people who deliberately choose not to take part in the election process, by treating their non-vote as a “no” ballot cast against certain initiatives. Refusing to vote always has been a right in the United States, but never before has Arizona said the opinions of such non-voters shall have the same weight and authority as those who do their homework on the issues, reach informed conclusions and put their views into action by casting a ballot. Prop. 105 would inject a cancer into the democratic process by honoring apathy and declaring that non-voters have made their choices known simply by doing nothing.
Furthermore, Prop. 105 offers the illusion that voters still can direct government spending or regulations on private businesses — if an idea is so fundamentally good that its widely embraced by a “true” majority of the public. But it’s an undeniable fact that no past Arizona initiative in our lifetime would have been adopted under the standard set by Prop. 105, regardless of the issue’s popularity or how many people voted for it.
If the concept behind Prop. 105 is that certain government policies are too complex or too important to be left to the whims of public opinion, then let’s propose directly to limit the reach of initiatives and declare some matters to be strictly under the sole control of the legislative process.
That kind of proposal would prompt an honest debate about the nature of a republican government versus the cherished Arizona tradition that the people have at least as much control as the governor and the Legislature through the ballot box.
Prop. 105 seeks to avoid that debate while seducing this year’s voters into giving away some of their future power to people who don’t join in our common civic duty. It’s ballot trickery that Arizona’s founders would expect the voters to reject out of hand.
October 24, 2008
The Arizona Republic
Proposition 105 turns the basic principle of democracy in America on its head. People who don’t vote would get counted in election results.
Under Proposition 105, initiatives would pass only if approved by a majority of registered voters - whether or not those people actually cast a ballot.
Imagine if we heard about this kind of system in some remote, emerging country. We’d shake our heads in disbelief.
We’d send advisers to explain: No, no, no, you calculate a winner by counting the ballots and see which person or measure got the most votes. Forget the non-voters. If they choose to stay home, they don’t get a voice.
Proposition 105 is so bizarre, such a perversion of the electoral process, that it unfortunately has a chance of passing. As voters wade through a crowded ballot, they may be gulled by the proposition’s shamelessly misleading name, Majority Rule. They may read right over the true implications of requiring assent from a majority of registered voters.
After all, who would believe that Arizona election officials could end up counting people who sat on the couch watching TV instead of voting?
The accurate title for this proposition is Apathy Rule.
Because in low-turnout elections, nothing could pass. Even measures that got 100 percent “yes” would fail if turnout fell below half of registered Arizonans.
In other words, people who don’t vote would get veto power over those who do.
This is democracy?
Monkey-wrenching our election system is the wrong way to do it. Voters should reject Proposition 105 on Nov. 4.
October 15, 2008
A look at who’s really paying for this year’s crop of props
By Jim Nintzel
When Arizona’s founding fathers wrote the state’s Constitution, they embraced a progressive movement that included the idea that citizens should be able to pass their own laws: They included an initiative provision that allows people who gather enough signatures to put questions in front of voters every two years.
Today, that petitioning process has become a tall hurdle to successfully jump. Asking voters to change a state law in 2008 requires 153,365 valid signatures from voters, or 10 percent of the number of votes cast statewide in the 2006 general election; if you want to propose a constitutional amendment, you need to gather 230,047 signatures, or 15 percent of the number of votes cast two years ago.
As a result, initiatives have moved away from empowering the average citizen and toward becoming a plaything for well-heeled special interests to experiment in democracy, design their own regulations or exempt themselves from taxation. (Although it’s important to keep in mind that just having plenty of money doesn’t guarantee success, as the backers of several initiatives–including plans to increase the sales tax to pay for transportation projects, preserve state-trust land and prohibit affirmative-action programs–discovered when their petitions were disqualified due to a lack of valid signatures earlier this year.
This year’s ballot initiatives are all driven by big-spending special interests–and a lot of that money is being used to cover up the fact that some of the props do pretty much the exact opposite of what they claim to do.
The most obvious example is Proposition 105, aka Majority Rules, a proposal that would require the support of a majority of all registered voters–not just the ones who cast votes on Election Day–to pass an initiative that raises any taxes or fees.
In essence, that would mean that all nonvoters–including those who couldn’t be bothered to cast a vote, have moved out of state or have even died–would be counted as “no” votes.
Opponents of the initiative–including the Tucson Weekly–say that rather than “majority rules,” the initiative could more accurately be characterized as “minority rules.”
Even in years when Arizona voters are relatively energized–such as 2006, when 60 percent of the voters went to the polls–a small minority of “no” votes would counter a big majority of “yes” votes. That year, a proposition that banned smoking in bars would have failed if just 17 percent of voters had rejected it, because it included a 2-cent tax on packs of cigarettes to pay for enforcement. (The proposition became law with about 55 percent of the vote.)
Steve Voeller of the Arizona Free Enterprise Club says that expecting 83 percent of the voters to support a proposition before it becomes law is a reasonable threshold. “If you’re going to go around the Legislature with your tax increase, you ought to be able to meet a higher threshold. … We need to make it more difficult for special-interest groups to raise taxes.”
Voeller says that those special-interest groups have to be stopped from using the initiative process to sock Arizonans with higher taxes. But the only tax increase in recent memory that affected virtually all Arizonans–a .6-cent sales-tax increase to help fund education that passed in 2000–wouldn’t have been subject to the Majority Rules requirements, because it was put on the ballot by the Legislature. The other tax increases that have passed at the ballot box have targeted specific groups–such as smokers two years ago–or have been measures targeting matters such as allowing the state to share gambling money with Indian tribes.
The initiative’s primary sponsor is Jason LaVecke, who owns MJKL Enterprises, a chain of Carl’s Jr., Green Burrito, Red Burrito and Hardee’s franchises. LaVecke, through a variety of fronts, has contributed more than $1.2 million to the campaign. (Other contributors include local auto dealer Jim Click, who has kicked in at least $50,000, and various booze distributors, including $5,000 from Hensley and Co., whose board is chaired by Cindy McCain, wife of GOP presidential nominee John McCain.)
The most recent report shows the campaign has spent more than $1.5 million on the effort, most of which has been paid to the Lincoln Strategy Group, which is run by political consultant Nathan Sproul, the former executive director of the Arizona Republican Party who made headlines–along with some new enemies on the political right–earlier this year with negative attacks that called state Rep. Russell Pearce a Nazi sympathizer and a wife-beater. (Despite Sproul’s attacks, Pearce won the GOP state Senate primary in District 18 in a landslide.)
Opponents of the initiative include health-care organizations, educators, environmentalists, firefighters and others who recognize that the initiative route is often the only avenue they have to boost spending, especially because another voter-passed constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds majority in the Arizona Legislature to pass a tax or fee increase.
Those special interests are mobilizing to stop Prop 105 with two political committees. The first, The Voters of Arizona, has collected roughly $390,000, including $250,000 from the National Education Association, as of Sept. 22. A second political committee, Protect Your Vote–No on 105, was formed just last week with a half-million dollar contribution from John Sperling, the billionaire founder of the University of Phoenix.
Elected officials are also lining up against it, including Tucson Mayor Bob Walkup (who had to admit that he was wrong when he previously stated that Majority Rules would affect propositions placed on the ballot by elected officials).
The initiative has even drawn opposition from the Arizona Game and Fish Commission. Bill McLean, the chairman commission, noted that two initiatives passed by voters since 1990 that support wildlife funding through lottery and Indian-gaming dollars would have failed had Prop 105’s rules been in affect.
In a statement announcing the Fish and Game Commission’s unanimous vote against the proposition, McLean warned that “Arizona citizens concerned with conservation of wildlife and wildlife habitat should be vitally concerned about this proposition. … Protecting critical wildlife habitat and wildlife funding will not keep pace if this initiative passes.”
Voeller concedes that the people behind Prop 105 are a special interest, but he draws a distinction between the anti-tax special interests and the pro-tax special interests.
“We’re putting the burden on interest groups that seek to increase the tax burden on all Arizona taxpayers,” Voeller says.
October 14, 2008
By EJ Montini, The Arizona Republic
The guy on the phone is angry because he already has mailed in his early ballot and I’m just telling him that if Proposition 105 passes it will give dead people the vote.
“Why didn’t you pass on that little bit of information sooner?” he says.
I tried. I wrote a column about the proposition when we were barely into October, but even that was too late for the most prompt of the early voters.
The problem, I tell the guy, is that politicians aren’t as smart as Wal-Mart. They haven’t figured out that the best retailers put out the holiday decorations and offer sales WAY early. Political salesman should do the same.
For example, I read an article last week saying that Wal-Mart was determined to have Christmas shops open in its stores by Oct. 10.
Anyone looking to convince voters in Arizona of anything must follow that lead.
Karen Osborn, the elections director for Maricopa County, told me that more than 700,000 thousand early ballots have been mailed out in our county.
“Quite a few of those people won’t mail in their ballots until the last minute,” she said. “Some will even bring them to the polling places on election day, which is fine. But many of them are voting now, or have voted already. Hopefully, they have read about the propositions and know about the candidates.”
It was Osborn who told me about the dead getting the vote if Prop. 105 passes.
Another group of people who will determine Arizona elections if Prop. 105 is approved are those who no longer live in Arizona.
The problem is that Prop. 105 essentially says that for any tax- or fee-imposing proposition to pass, it must receive a majority of ALL registered voters. Those who are registered to vote but who do not to go to the polls would be recorded as “no” votes.
I asked Osborn how often the voter registration rolls are purged of those who died or left the county. She told me that it is an ongoing process but that at any given time there are quite a few deceased or otherwise departed citizens on the rolls. In future proposition elections, such people would be recorded as “no” votes.
The guy on the telephone was angry to hear about that.
“Why don’t the politicians – and the media – take early voters into account?” he said.
Given the fact that people started running for president two years ago, I’m not sure.
Back when the guy on the phone voted, for instance, Sen. John McCain hadn’t yet sent out his vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin to describe Sen. Barack Obama as someone who “pals around” with terrorists.
In fact, during the Democrats’ convention, McCain recorded a special TV message that ran after Obama’s nomination, saying in part, “Senator Obama, this is truly a good day for America. Too often the achievements of our opponents go unnoticed. So I wanted to stop and say, congratulations.”
Any revelation to come out these days is purely for entertainment purposes to an early voter. Any money spent on campaign commercials is a wasted expenditure.
It’s like an attorney in a murder trial deciding to make his closing argument after the jury has reached a verdict.
Back in the old days, clever political strategists would get the drop on the competition by conjuring up an “October surprise” — some juicy tidbit or accusation that couldn’t be disproved before Election Day.
The surprise these days is that by mid-October a lot of us have voted.
October 13, 2008
Opponents correct on ‘no’ votes
by Matthew Benson - Oct. 12, 2008
The Arizona Republic
Advertisement target: In opposition of Proposition 105, the Majority Rule citizens initiative.
Who’s behind it: The Voters of Arizona - No On Prop. 105, with major funding from the Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Association, Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona, Arizona School Boards Association, and the National Education Association.
Length and format: 30 seconds, television.
The pitch: The ad begins by re-enacting a familiar scene. A woman walks into a polling place and approaches a row of seated elections workers. “Your vote is your voice. But Proposition 105 would silence your voice forever,” a male narrator tells viewers, his last words echoing for effect.
A ballot is shown being fed into a paper shredder, as the narrator warns that “If Prop. 105 passes, it automatically gives a ‘no’ vote for registered voters who don’t vote on initiatives.”
“That would cancel out any ‘yes’ vote of yours,” he continues. A ballot is again shown disappearing into a shredder, and the narrator alleges that Prop. 105’s “sole purpose is to silence your voice.”
The ad concludes with the narrator saying, “It’s wrong to count people who don’t vote” - his words punctuated by an image of someone being slapped with a sticker reading, “I didn’t vote today!”
Claims: The ad makes two basic claims: that Prop. 105 would count non-votes as ‘no’ votes and, in doing so, cancel out the votes of those who actually cast a ballot.
Accuracy: The ad is essentially accurate, especially its central claim that Prop. 105 would count registered voters who don’t participate in the election as “no” votes.
That’s because the initiative would redefine what constitutes victory at the polls.
It would require that future tax and spending initiatives seeking passage receive a majority of all registered voters, rather than a simple majority of all ballots cast.
But there’s no question that it would treat non-voters as “no” votes by default, ostensibly canceling out the “yes” votes actually cast in the election.
Prop. 105 opponents take their argument a step further in the ad, alleging that the initiative’s “sole purpose is to silence your voice.”
This area gets less into matters of truth and misrepresentation and more into a battle of perception.
Prop. 105 opponents argue it would sideline Arizona’s initiative tradition, given the far tougher standards for passage that it would implement.
Take that plus the non-voters-as-’no’-votes issue and you’ve got the basis for the argument that Prop. 105 is meant to “silence your voice.”
Prop. 105 supporters maintain that their goal isn’t to gut Arizona’s initiative process but, instead, to rein in wealthy special interests, often from out of state, that have used the state’s lax initiative process to propose tax increases and meddle in the budget.
They say it’s those interests, not Prop. 105 and its backers, that have consistently gamed the system.
October 13, 2008
Ariz. ballot measure would limit ballot measures
Link to Story
By PAUL DAVENPORT
The Associated Press
Sunday, October 12, 2008
PHOENIX — Proponents of a ballot measure to restrict ballot measures call it a financial necessity. Opponents say it would deliver a near-crippling blow to a form of direct democracy that Arizona has used since it became a state.
Under the proposition on the Nov. 4 ballot, no initiatives that raise taxes or require new spending could take effect unless they’re approved by a majority of registered voters.
That presents a much higher hurdle than the current requirement _ that an initiative get approval from a majority of voters actually casting ballots. And it’s one that legislative analysts say no Arizona initiative in the past decade would have cleared.
A national expert on initiatives and referendums said the Arizona measure would cut down the approval rate and probably even discourage some activists from launching initiative campaigns in the first place.
“Voters get fewer choices,” said John Matsusaka, a professor of business and law at the University of Southern California.
Other states with November ballot measures on their initiative process include Colorado, Ohio and Wyoming. The Colorado measure is the most sweeping, with changes that include making it easier to get a statutory change on the ballot and harder for a constitutional change.
In Arizona, supporters contend a change is needed to rein in an expanding state government that is burdening the public and businesses with higher taxes and spending mandates, such as the new state minimum wage approved by voters in 2006.
Special interests promote ballot measures, many aiming for low-turnout elections that attract fewer voters, to further their own nests, said Jason LeVecke, a fast-foot restaurant franchisee who has contributed $1.2 million to the campaign for the proposition, which supporters have dubbed “Majority Rule _ Let the People Decide.”
“You can’t engineer the system to your advantage. That’s what’s going on with these groups who only care about their piece of the pie. This is tough medicine, admittedly, but something we desperately need,” he said.
Opponents say the change would handcuff citizens who need initiatives to maneuver around lawmakers who won’t tackle pressing problems, such as health care funding.
“It takes away a critical component of democracy,” said John Wright, president of the Arizona Education Association.
October 9, 2008
East Valley Tribune
Austin Hill, Commentary
Oct. 8, 2008
Campaign slogans are one thing. The substance of a candidate or a ballot initiative is something different.
And that’s why I was intrigued when I saw the sloganeering for the “yes on Proposition 105″ campaign. “Majority Rules - Let The People Decide” is how the signs read. The first time I saw that, it struck me that “majority rules” was a phrase I uttered a few times in my childhood, when a disagreement over what game to play, or what the game’s rules would be, threatened to break up the gang on the playground.
But this isn’t child’s play. Real Arizona adults are making decisions about Prop. 105.
As it stands in Arizona, a ballot proposition becomes law when it receives approval from 50 percent of those who vote on it. Proposition 105 would change that condition for all ballot propositions that would seek to raise taxes or fees that are imposed on Arizonans, or would involve additional governmental spending. The new requirement for passage of a ballot initiative would be that the initiative be approved by a number equal to half of registered voters, not merely half of those who vote on the initiative.
So, let’s imagine that Proposition A was on the ballot, and 100,000 voters cast a ballot on Proposition A. In accordance with current Arizona statutes, a “yes” vote from 50,000 of those voters would enable Proposition A to become law.
But then let’s imagine that, while 100,000 voters cast ballots on Proposition A, the proposition was nonetheless put before 200,000 registered voters (and only 100,000 of them chose to vote). If Prop. 105 were already the law of the land, then Proposition A on our current ballot would presumably need 100,000 “yes” votes in order to become law.
The net affect, in other words, is that Prop. 105 would make it more difficult to pass increases in taxes, governmental fees, and governmental spending at the ballot box. And I’m all in favor of making those kinds of things more difficult.
What I don’t like is some of the reasoning behind the initiative. Advocates of Prop. 105 claim “passage of this ballot measure would remove the ability for special interests to use ballot initiatives to raise our taxes or mandate increased spending.”
This is not entirely true. Ultimately, special-interest groups (whoever “they” are) don’t pass ballot initiatives. Arizona voters either approve, or reject, ballot initiatives when they vote. Sure, special-interest groups may manipulate, or even lie to, uninformed voters with their campaign rhetoric. But people who vote are informed and uninformed in varying degrees. In our form of government, we don’t screen voters to find out how informed they are before they cast a ballot, and it’s always a mixed bag. But voters cast the ballots, not the special-interest groups, and the outcome of elections ultimately rests on the shoulders of voters.
Those who oppose Prop. 105 claim that “if this measure passes, it means that on every issue that involves expenditures, every registered voter who stays home and doesn’t vote for whatever reason is effectively a ‘no’ vote.” This argument is accurate. Not only does Prop. 105 actually give weight and validation to a registered yet non-voting voter, it also devalues and partially invalidates a person who votes, and votes “yes” on an initiative.
I support Prop. 105’s intended goals of making it more difficult for government to spend public money. But partially invalidating a registered voter’s “yes,” and partially validating another registered voter’s non-vote, is not the way to achieve the stated objectives.
October 9, 2008
Majority loses with proposal
Imagine an election where the outcome hinged on people who didn’t bother to cast a ballot. Picture a process in which the folks who didn’t vote could overturn the decision of those who did.
This head-spinning proposal is at the heart of Proposition 105. The proposed amendment to the state Constitution goes by the breathtakingly misleading moniker of “Majority Rule - Let the People Decide.”
The reality is just the opposite. Under Proposition 105, any ballot initiative that called for any additional taxes, fees or spending would only pass if it received a “yes” vote from the majority of all registered voters. That means everyone listed on the registration rolls, even those who have moved away or died.
This results in some stunning election math.
If turnout were less than 50 percent, an initiative would automatically fail, whatever the vote count. Even if all the voters cast “yes” ballots, their votes would be worthless.
A better name for this proposition is: Majority Loses.
If Proposition 105’s bizarre logic had been in place in Arizona during past elections, most measures would have failed. Proposition 105 would be bound to apply to every initiative, since virtually any change results in some sort of expenditure, however small.
Supporters say the goal is to stop the abuse of initiatives and keep special interests from bankrupting the state with new spending and new taxes. They say initiatives are taking the place of a strong Legislature.
Those are issues worth addressing.
But deforming the electoral process is the wrong strategy.
Arizona doesn’t need a “non-voter protection act.”
That’s why such a wide variety of interests oppose this initiative, including the business group WESTMARC, the Humane Society, the state hospital association, Professional Fire Fighters of Arizona and the Arizona School Boards Association.
The real voters in November should show the real meaning of the word “majority” by giving a thumbs-down to Proposition 105.
October 8, 2008
The Voters of Arizona Committee Member, Janice Palmer discusses No on prop 105 on NPR’s Here & Now. Click the link below to listen:
Title: Here and Now: AZ Ballot Propositions
Author: Steve Goldstein
Publisher: KJZZ 91.5 FM
Link to Content: URL
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