A lawsuit, a march and a few bills for the U.S. Senate. That could be all that stands between Arizona and comprehensive suffrage legislation.
The Grand Canyon State is at the forefront of a fierce battle for suffrage.
Arizona’s senior U.S. senator, as well as special interest groups, spoke Thursday in favor of the Freedom to Vote Act and the John R. Lewis Voting Rights Act.
Together, the two bills would ensure two weeks of early voting, automate voter registration, prepay postage on postal ballots delivered to anyone who wants them, and tighten the cord for politicians who want to emperor or remove eligible voters.
But Republican senators have maintained a filibuster.
The Senate filibuster is a congressional parliamentary rule employed by at least 41 senators – a minority united to block legislation across the aisle. For Republicans, the tool has been effective in suppressing Democrats’ push for voting legislation to the debate stage. But it may not last much longer.
Democratic Arizona Senator Kyrsten Sinema is ready to advance the bills, she said.
On Tuesday, President Joe Biden said it may be necessary to change Senate rules to circumvent a filibuster to pass comprehensive suffrage legislation.
Sinema has not changed its position on the filibuster, she said Thursday morning. She fights against oppressive voter laws.
“It is through elections that Americans make their voices heard,” Sinema said in his powerful speech in the Senate. “These bills help treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not fully address the disease itself – the fragmentation disease that is affecting our country.”
Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, a New York Democrat, intends to bring rule changes to the chamber of Martin Luther King Jr. Day to circumvent the whims of the Republican minority.
That date is symbolic.
Two days before he marches for federal suffrage legislation in DC, Martin Luther King III, the eldest son of the famous civil rights leader, will do the same in Phoenix with family members and prominent groups in Arizona.
They are fighting against what an Arizona lawsuit claims was racial discrimination against black and brown voters in Arizona in the 2020 election.
Last year, 19 states passed 34 bills to oppress voters on the party line, according to Washington, DC-based watchdog group Common Cause. But in Arizona, the issue is twofold.
A poll this week showed that two-thirds of Arizona voters, including at least half of Arizona’s Democratic, Republican, and independent voters, support electoral reform.
“Confidence in our electoral system continues to decline,” said CJ Diegel of Stand Up Republic, a right-wing political advocacy firm.
In a string of futile election revisions and perpetual fraud conspiracies centered around the valley, Diegel said it is “really embarrassing for the state of Arizona.”
It’s an issue that has been politicized, but it’s also a matter of morality and faith, according to Pastor Katie Sexton-Wood, CEO of the Arizona Faith Network.
“Our freedom to vote is sacred,” she said. “To silence our voice means to silence our voice. It means to regulate how we believe we should live our lives.”
It was this two-pronged opposition to voter oppression stemming from the 2020 general election that led to the lawsuit against some of the state’s most important election agents.
A class action lawsuit pending before the federal district court in Arizona appoints Secretary of State and Governor Hope Katie Hobbs, Democrat, and Republican Attorney General Mark Brnovich, along with 18 others, as defendants.
Maricopa County Recorder Steven Richer, a defendant in the case, dismissed all charges. Hobbs did not deny any of the allegations, but rejected the idea that plaintiffs were entitled to an award of their costs and attorneys’ fees against her.
The other defendants did not take a position on the facts of the complaint.
Four reform organizations make up the charging party.
The case concerns the Voter Purge Act and the Cure Period Act. These laws, passed in the wake of the 2020 election, were “designed to make it harder for Arizona residents – especially colored Arizona residents – to vote,” according to the complaint.
Plaintiffs allege unlawful racial discrimination in court documents.
“That [laws] violate the right of all Arizona residents to vote, “according to court records.
The lawsuit alleges that public officials used false allegations of voter fraud to undermine voters’ rights and made unfounded efforts to undermine voter confidence during and after the election.
For example, defendants in court documents admitted that auditors, motivated by false conspiracy theories, were instructed to scan ballot papers with ultraviolet light and look for traces of bamboo to determine if they were imported from China.
In March 2021, Senate President Pro Tem John Kavanaugh said he did not mind introducing security measures that will not let everyone vote – but everyone should not vote.
This led to the two laws being passed in the case.
Voter Purge Law, passed in May 2021, removes rare mail voters from Arizona’s ballot list. It’s all about electoral integrity, “Governor Doug Ducey said at the time.
Under Arizona’s Cure Period Law, enacted in April 2021, absent ballots that arrived without a signature that were not fixed or “cured” by 6 p.m. 19.00 on election day be discarded.
On the eve of Election Day 2020, Hobbs said of curing ballot papers: “Arizona law includes this important step in helping to ensure that all eligible votes are counted.”
She added that the curing process could take “a few days.” But under the new law, which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in July, that is no longer the case.
It is these restrictions on the ballot box, combined with gerrymandering and biased quarrels over election control, that give credibility to the trial, according to Tucson activist Caleb Hayter.
Hayter is a U.S. Marine Corps veteran who was deployed in Afghanistan in 2011. It struck him how Afghan citizens could not influence any change to improve their lives, he said.
It also reminded him of home.
“Nations fail when they can not function,” he said. “We’re at a point in Arizona where we have not functioned for a very long time, and part of that is due to a lack of voting rights.”
People turn to conspiracies to provide answers when they question why society has not met their needs and expectations, said Hayter, who is now a campaigner in Tucson.
These conspiracies thrive in battlefield states like Arizona, where election margins are razor sharp.
“I do not want to see it in my country, I do not want to see it in my state,” Hayter said.
He called on Sinema to push the voting rights proposals to become law.
Said Cameron Adams, former president of the Arizona State Young Democrats, “If we do not act now, we may not get another opportunity to protect the right to vote for all.”