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PHOENIX -- Arizona cannot require people to produce proof of citizenship before they register to vote, at least not for federal elections, a federal appellate court ruled Friday.
Arizona is deciding a full slate of statewide, congressional and local races, many of which were highly competitive heading in to the final hours of the campaign. The closeness of the contests has been reflected in the bombardment of attack ads over the final weeks as Democratic, Republican and special interest groups have spent large amounts of money in Arizona. Here is a look at the ticket, and what's at stake:
PHOENIX -- Close to one out of every seven votes cast this year will come from Hispanics, according to a non-partisan organization promoting Latino turnout.
Close to one out of every seven votes cast this year will come from Hispanics, according to a non-partisan organization promoting Latino turnout. And group members predict that large percentage of them will vote for Democrats — but not necessarily because of what those candidates offer, but how Republicans are campaigning.
Voters will decide Tuesday whether Arizona will become the fifth state to make it easier for terminally ill patients to access experimental drugs that haven't been cleared by the federal government.
Proponents of Proposition 122 insist that a potentially far-reaching amendment to the Arizona Constitution is necessary to ensure the public gets to monitor how well — or poorly — Arizona does in protecting children.
PHOENIX -- Proponents of Proposition 122 insist a potentially far-reaching amendment to the Arizona Constitution is necessary to ensure the public gets to monitor how well -- or poorly -- Arizona does in protecting children.
Postcards being paid for and mailed to voters by the Arizona Republican Party declare that "an unconstitutional federal law'' forces Child Protective Services -- which technically no longer exists -- "to hide botched investigations of abused kids.'' It features a photo of a young girl with a bruise on her arm crouching in the corner with her teddy bear.
The measure on the November ballot would allow the Legislature -- or voters -- to declare that the new Department of Child Safety will not follow the federal Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act which includes provisions about what can and cannot be publicly released.
But it may not be necessary to amend the state constitution to do that.
"We could get out of CAPTA now if we reject the federal funds,'' said Dana Naimark, president of the Children's Action Alliance. Naimark, whose organization has taken no position on Prop 122, said she objects to proponents of the ballot measure using child-abuse issues to gain support, calling it a "distraction.''
Rep. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, who has been at the forefront of demanding more transparency at DCS, supports Proposition 122. But she acknowledged the problem may not be with CAPTA, the federal law which the ballot measure would let legislators decide they don't want to enforce here -- and the one the mailer claims without backup is "unconstitutional.'' In fact, she said CAPTA specifically mandates disclosure of information in cases of deaths or near-fatal cases of abuse.
The big problem, she said, is how the state attorneys assigned to the child-welfare agency have chosen to read the federal law -- and to use it as a shield to reject requests for public records.
"They interpret CAPTA so broadly as to make it shut down the access to and flow of information, as opposed to do what CAPTA was intended, which is to facilitate the sharing of information in the case of the death or the near-death of a child,'' Brophy McGee said.
So is Proposition 122 needed to open up records?
"It's another tool in the tool box,'' she said, to ensure the new DCS she helped create -- and the lawyers that advise it -- err on the side of disclosure. "I'm fully prepared to use it.''
In essence, Proposition 122 would permit lawmakers or voters to decide that some federal law or program is not "consistent with the (federal) constitution.'' If that happens, all state and local governments and school districts would be prohibited from using their workers or funds "to enforce, administer or cooperate with the designated federal action or program.''
Where child abuse comes in is with CAPTA.
On one hand, the law which provides federal dollars to states for child-abuse programs specifically allows disclosure of information in instances of abuse that result in a fatality or near fatality. But other information is considered off limits.
More to the point, officials at Child Protective Services for years have cited CAPTA restrictions in rejecting requests for public records.
Brophy McGee said recent amendments to the law on confidentiality were designed to address some of that.
For example, the statute says records have to be maintained as required by federal law. But they also have declared that "all exceptions for the public release of DCS information shall be construed as openly as possible under federal law.''
"Every time we 'fix' (the law), they go right back to where they were and they cite CAPTA,'' Brophy McGee said. And she said that the new DCS is "not doing any better'' than the old CPS at being transparent about its operations -- even after she inserted a provision into the law creating DCS allowing the agency to hire its own attorney who might be willing to approve more disclosure.
That still leaves the question of whether lawmakers need Proposition 122 or can simply alter the existing Arizona law to demand fuller disclosure, regardless of federal law.
Businessman Jack Biltis, who is financing much of the pro-122 campaign, said he doubts that a simple amendment to state law would do much.
"CPS has really just been creating excuses not to disclose anything they didn't want to,'' he said, with the agency claiming the supremacy of the federal law. He said Proposition 122 would solve that by allowing lawmakers, citing the Arizona Constitution, to preclude precluding the DCS from participating in the federal CAPTA program if that is what is keeping records secret.
Biltis acknowledged that part of the decision lawmakers would have to make is whether such a mandate is worth the risk of losing federal dollars.
It's not a lot: Jennifer Bowser Richards, spokeswoman for DCS, put CAPTA aid to Arizona at just $670,000.
Biltis contends there is precedent that Washington cannot take away funds simply because Arizona refuses to follow federal law. That comes from the U.S. Supreme Court ruling two years ago which blocked the Obama administration from cutting off Medicaid dollars to states that refuse to expand their programs as part of the Affordable Care Act.
But that ruling dealt with a new requirement being superimposed on existing Medicaid law. This would involve Arizona trying to unilaterally alter an existing agreement.
Brophy McGee said she doubts there would be a legal fight if Arizona were to say it is going to make more information public, with or without Proposition 122.
"No state has ever lost funds because of CAPTA violations,'' she said.
DCS Director Charles Flanagan declined to be interviewed about the issue.
PHOENIX -- Saying the state needs the cash, a first-term Tucson Republican lawmaker wants to legalize marijuana -- and do it before it ends up on the 2016 ballot.
Ethan Orr said he believes a Colorado-style law here could generate upwards of $250 million a year in tax revenues. He said the state, heading into a budget deficit, needs the cash.
But Orr said there's another reason for lawmakers to act: a proposed 2016 ballot measure.
He said if that is passed, it is virtually impossible to make changes if it turns out there are problems. By contrast, Orr said anything approved by the Legislature can be amended by the Legislature.
The proposal drew a sharp rebuke from Rep. Victoria Steele, D-Tucson, who is also running in the same legislative district. She said the timing -- a month before the general election -- is suspicious as she, Orr and Democrat Randy Friese face off for the two available seats.
But this isn't Orr's first foray into the issue of marijuana.
Last session he sponsored legislation designed to allow the use of state dollars, obtained from medical marijuana users and dispensaries, to study the effects of the drug. That measure was approved by the House but killed in the Senate.
Timing aside, Steele said that, as a substance abuse counselor, she cannot support anything that has the possibility of making marijuana more easily available to teens, even if the law were designed to limit its purchase to adults.
The proposal is getting a decidedly chilly reception from Republican gubernatorial hopeful Doug Ducey who would be in a position to sign or veto the bill if it ever got to his desk.
"As the father of three boys and the son of a cop, he thinks it's a bad idea,'' said spokeswoman Melissa DeLaney.
But Democrat Fred DuVal appears open to the idea -- but just not yet.
"Fred wants to wait and see what happens with the states that already moved to legalize recreational marijuana,'' said Geoff Vetter, his press aide. "There's a lot of things we're still learning and Fred wants to discover all the consequences of legalization before moving in that direction.''
But the Marijuana Policy Project, which got voters in 2010 to approve a medical marijuana law, is not about to drop its plans for 2016.
Chris Lindsey, the group's legislative analyst, said Orr's proposal is "not surprising'' given what he said has been the success of legalization in Colorado.
"We applaud Rep. Orr for taking a stand for a more sensible law,'' Lindsey said. But simply introducing a bill is far from a guarantee of getting a hearing, much less the measure making its way onto the books.
"For the time being, while we wish the representative and his legislation every success, our plans to place a measure before voters in 2016 has not changed,'' Lindsey said.
Orr's plan is a direct extension of that 2010 initiative when voters decided that those with certain medical conditions and a doctor's recommendation could purchase up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from state-regulated dispensaries.
Since that time the state's finances have deteriorated.
The current projection is Arizona will end this budget year $520 million in the red if lawmakers have to reset state aid to schools to where it would have been had they not ignored for several years a requirement to consider inflation. And for the coming year the deficit is projected to exceed $1 billion.
Orr said the experience in Colorado shows legalization can work.
"All of the apocalyptic predictions made have not come true,'' he said.
"You have not seen an increase in the hardcore drug usage of things like heroin and cocaine,'' Orr said, or any increase in arrests for disorderly conduct. "But what you have seen is an increase in tax revenue.''
Potentially more significant, Orr said, is the chance that the 2016 initiative might pass.
He said this means Arizona law will be crafted not after careful consideration and debate by lawmakers but instead go to voters as a take-it-or-leave-it plan. Worse yet, Orr said, is the Arizona Constitution precludes virtually any change by lawmakers in voter-approved measures even if problems develop.
"This is going to happen,'' he said.
"Is it going to happen in an intelligent way because my colleagues chose to act like leaders and do what was right for the state?'' Orr continued. "I guess another way of putting it (is), are we going to govern or are we going to be governed by the initiative process?''
"I don't think we should have it either way,'' responded Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall. "We don't need another highly addictive substance available to adults or adolescents.''
LaWall acknowledged that what Orr is proposing would be only for adults. But she said its greater availability will make it more accessible to teens.
"Research shows it has a devastating and damaging impact on developing brains and can lead to life-long addiction,'' she said. "Among other risks, marijuana impairs thinking, leads to poor educational outcomes and lowered IQ, and increases a teen's likelihood of dropping out of school.''
And LaWall said even assuming marijuana sales could be limited to adults, legalization sends the message that it's use is somehow OK.
Steele said Colorado residents are having second thoughts. In a poll last month by Suffolk University and USA today, about half of residents surveyed said they are not happy with the law and how it is being implemented.
"And in Colorado, we're seeing since this has happened, that the use of marijuana among teenagers is 39 percent higher than the national average,'' Steele said.
But another report raises the question of whether any of this is related to the 2012 law.
A report released by Healthy Kids Colorado found that in 2013, the first full year the drug was legal for adults, 20 percent of high schoolers admitted using marijuana in the prior month and 37 percent said they had used it at some point in their lives.
By contrast, the 2011 survey found 22 percent who admitted to use in the prior month and 39 percent to sampling it.
But along the lines of LaWall's concern of acceptance, the same survey said the percentage of students who perceive a moderate or great risk from marijuana use declined from 58 percent in 2011 to 54 percent two years later.
Steele said her concern is for those children.
"I do think that adults have the right to make that decision,'' she said.
"But I'm a substance abuse counselor,'' Steele continued. "And I have dealt with so many people who started their drug and alcohol addiction in their teenage years, starting at 11 and 12.''
Orr said he has never used marijuana. And he agrees that, at least for teens, the drug should remain off limits for recreational use.
"In high school I saw it fundamentally destroyed some of my friends' lives,'' Orr said, who started with marijuana and, having decided that illegal drug use is OK, moved on to other substances.
This isn't the first foray by lawmakers into the area of legalizing -- or at least decriminalizing -- marijuana for recreational use.
John Fillmore, then a Republican representative from Apache Junction, tried in 2011 to make possession of up to two ounces a fine of no more than $200. When that failed, he tried a scaled-back measure the following year, with a $500 fine for possession of up to an ounce.
That also failed.
Just this past session Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Phoenix, tried total legalization and recreation but could not get a hearing for his measure.
The debate Tuesday night for who should be the state's chief election officer turned into a televised spat over religious discrimination.
PHOENIX -- The debate Tuesday night for who should be the state's chief election officer turned into a televised spat over religious discrimination.
Republican Michele Reagan found herself on the defensive for voting earlier this year for SB 1062. The measure would have allowed owners of businesses to cite their sincerely held religious beliefs as justification for refusing to provide service to some. It was eventually vetoed by Gov. Jan Brewer as unnecessary -- and after some lawmakers of both parties who had voted for it had second thoughts. That includes Reagan.
"Bad vote,'' she conceded during a debate Tuesday night at KAET-TV. Reagan said in her 12 years in the Legislature, she probably cast 10,000 votes.
"So I would say it's probably a little inappropriate, and I would say a little unfair to go through and to cherry pick,'' she said.
That vote is irrelevant to the job she now wants, she contended. She said SB 1062 would have impaired the right of people to vote, a key duty of the office she wants.
But Democrat Terry Goddard said her vote should matter to those who want the secretary of state to run elections in the most open manner.
"I think we know from experience in the Deep South in the civil-rights era that access to a lunch counter and access to an equal seat on the bus and voting rights are all tied up in the same package,'' he said. "So, you can't say somebody doesn't get a full set of equal rights in one area and then say it's OK for voting.''
Goddard rejected questions from host Ted Simons that legislation about religious freedom is unrelated to voting rights.
"If the secretary of state is not making it clear to all the citizens of Arizona that they're going to be absolutely fair in the execution of the voting laws, that every vote is counted and every individual is equal, the message that goes out is going to have what we have today, which is a rapidly decelerating number of people participating,'' Goddard said.
Reagan shot back that the only message voters are getting from debating now her vote on SB 1062 is that Goddard wants to make the election "hyper partisan.''
"The message is, let's take one vote, two votes, three votes -- you can go through the 10,000 votes and find a couple -- and lets blow them up and try to make people angry,'' saying those moves were designed solely to "upset people.''
"That's the kind of stuff that turns people off from politics, from public policy, from government, the exact opposite of what a secretary of state or secretary of state candidate should be doing,'' Reagan said.
Goddard's retort to the charge of being hyper-partisan was that, in the end, the opposition to SB 1062 was bipartisan.
On the subject of boosting voter turnout, Reagan said she plans outreach ranging from an advocate to educating voters around the state, to setting up kiosks in high schools to make it easier for students turning 18 to register to vote.
Goddard focused on removing what he said are impediments thrown in the path of those not registered with any recognized party.
He said independent candidates have to get 33,000 signatures to run for statewide office; a Republican or Democrat needs around 7,000. And independent voters, who now outnumber Republicans and Democrats, must make a request before every primary election for an early ballot; party registrants who have signed up for these need do nothing more.
Each also claimed to be qualified to be governor if it comes to that, as the secretary of state is first in line if the chief executive quits, dies or is impeached and convicted.
Reagan cited her experience as a legislator and working at a family business. Goddard countered with his election as Phoenix mayor in the 1980s and as state attorney general from 2002 to 2010.
Follow Howard Fischer on Twitter at @azcapmedia.
Arizona voters will decide on Nov. 6 if terminally ill patients can have the right to serve as test cases for medical treatments that have not received federal approval.
Past generations of Americans defied the odds to achieve the right to participate in the political process — overcoming menacing threats of violence, arrest, and coercion, all to earn the right to vote. As United States citizens, we pride ourselves on living in a country that has become the standard-bearer of democratic values worldwide. But a troubling pattern has taken hold, threatening this distinction for generations to come.
The Arizona Secretary of State's office is trying to clear up misinformation about ways independents are allowed to vote in the August 26 primary election.
Veteran Yuma state senator Don Shooter will have a foe in the Aug. 26 Republican primary.
The Arizona Supreme Court has rejected a legal bid to force a change in procedure on how ballots for future elections are counted and handled.
A federal judge has rebuffed a last minute — and untimely — bid by the Arizona Green Party to get itself and its candidates on this year's ballot.
A federal judge said that efforts by the Green Party to qualify for a place on the Arizona ballot this year may be legally insufficient.
Secretary of State Ken Bennett is asking a federal judge to rebuff efforts by the Green Party to get its candidates on the Arizona ballot this year.
Terminally ill patients could get access to drugs that have not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration under the terms of a measure given preliminary Senate approval Tuesday.
Using extracts to make medical marijuana sodas, candies and lollipops is legal, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge has decided.
A federal judge on Wednesday ordered the Election Assistance Commission to require would-be Arizona voters to provide proof of citizenship when they register.
Absent a federal court order, Arizonans may not get to cast their ballots this year for any Green Party candidates.
Despite the gubernatorial veto of legislation billed as promoting religious freedom, the Center for Arizona Policy has a long history of getting lawmakers and governors – at least Republican governors – to do what it wants.