Arizona a Cesspool of Republican Politics

dead republican elephantThe voting fiasco in metro Phoenix during Arizona’s March 2016 presidential preference election highlighted the ideological bankruptcy of the modern Republican party, especially among Arizona Republicans.

The U.S. Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has opened an investigation into the botched election process in Maricopa County, which is home to more than 4 million people and includes the city of Phoenix – the nation’s 5th most populous city. Federal investigators have submitted a list of documents for Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell and her elections director, Karen Osborne, to provide for review.

Purcell, a Republican, reduced the number of polling places in the county from 200 to 60, forcing some voters to wait in line for up to five hours, and making many give up and go home without voting. She did it with the approval of the county’s Republican-controlled board of supervisors. The primary reason, they all say, was to save money on the election. That excuse is backed up by the proceeds of a February board of supervisors meeting wherein its Republican members commended her proposal to save about $1 million by drastically reducing the number of polling places. The board had instructed Purcell to “to be as frugal as you can” because the Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature had cut state contributions to the county’s federal election funding by $2.4 million.

Republican Governor Doug Ducey responded to the voting mess by releasing a statement calling for election officials to “make sure it doesn’t happen again.” He also called for a change to the state’s voting laws, so that voters registered as independents are allowed to vote in party primary elections. “If people want to take the time to vote they should be able to, and their vote should be counted,” he concluded.

Ducey’s call for open primary elections surprised many people, because the state’s Republican leadership sees closed primaries as a way to preserve the conservative ideological purity of their candidates. This, and the fact that Ducey supported the legislature’s funding cuts to county elections, have fueled speculation about his motive for releasing the statement.

Purcell and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors are claiming that the problems with the election were just the result of their bad mistakes. But even if that’s true, the election still highlighted the rotten heart of Arizona Republican policies:

  • Republican Governor Ducey’s post-election statement said he supported the right of citizens to vote, but he isn’t concerned about the rights of the voters who passed Proposition 301 in 2000 to enact a sales tax to increase the funding for public schools. The legislature illegally diverted this money, according to the courts. But instead of encouraging the legislature to follow the law and reinstate this funding, Ducey devised Proposition 123 and convinced the legislature to put it on the ballot. If approved, it would provide less money to the schools than Proposition 301 and accelerate payments to the schools from State Trust land – potentially depleting the funds available for schools in the future. It would also place a constitutional cap on the percentage of the state’s budget that can be devoted to schools. This would help Ducey continue to cut taxes at any cost as part of his implementation of a dubious supply-side economic strategy for state government.
  • The Republican-controlled Arizona Legislature deemed it more important to cut state spending than to adequately fund federal elections. But that didn’t stop them from scheduling a special statewide election in May for Governor Ducey’s Proposition 123. This election will cost the counties millions to administer, some estimates are $9.3 million, with Pima County estimating that it will cost them at least $1.2 million.
  • The Republican-controlled Maricopa Count Board of Supervisors was willing to reduce the number of polling places to save $1 million. This was in spite of the fact that they’ve taken no action against the county’s Sheriff Joe Arpaio, who has cost county taxpayers an estimated $142 million in legal settlements, court awards and legal fees, and whose office was found guilty in federal court in 2013 of violating the rights of Latino citizens.

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