Election System Reform

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Several bills have been introduced to reform Arizona’s election system. Senator Michele Reagan and Representative Chad Campbell will discuss their bills.

Ted Simons: Arizona's voter rolls are up 3% since October. The Secretary of State's office reports that there are now 3.2 million Arizonans registered to vote. 35% are Republicans and 33% are independents and 30% are Democrats. Those registered voters will soon find a different elections landscape and several, if several bills find success, the bills would change campaign finance rules, recall elections and the state's initiative signature-gathering process. Heat now to talk about their ideas are Senator Michele Reagan and house Minority Leader Chad Campbell. Good to have here and thanks for joining us.

Michele Reagan: Thank you for having us.

Ted Simons: There is a lot to go through here. Let's get right into it. The increased reporting on gifts. This one got a lot of high profile with the fiesta bowl scandal and that sort of thing. What are you looking at here?

Michele Reagan: What we're looking at doing is putting more transparency sunlight into the interaction between elected officials and lobbyists. And allowing the public to have access to that information. And hopefully in more of a real-time fashion than the yearly reports where there is, there is really not a lot of detail, and not any ability to cross-check. Between what the lobbyists say and what the elected official says and, and there is a lot of different ideas and a lot of proposals, but I think that what's most important in this one particular bill, and in particular, is closing the loophole, and that, that didn't allow the, our county attorney bill Montgomery to prosecute some of the fiesta bowl offenses.

Ted Simons: What was that loophole?

Michele Reagan: The loophole was, actually, believe it or not, part of it is that the definition of gifts is different in two sections of will you, so you could be following one part of the statute, and correct but in another part, you are out of compliance, and tightening that up and also, saying that, that making it very clear that, that, you know, we have an entertainment ban already in our state. And but there is exceptions to that entertainment ban, and what my bill says is if you invoke one of those exceptions, additional reporting is trigger. And that would have closed the fiesta bowl loophole. Not just from the elected official's side but from the fiesta bowl side, as well, they should have been reporting, as well.

Ted Simons: What do you think? It sounds like you want to just ban all gifts to lawmakers period.

Chad Campbell: Yeah. And I have a bill out there to ban gifts from lobbyists, and I think that that's the cleanest approach, now, I applaud the Senator for taking the steps that she is taking, and I think that that's step in the right direction. But, we talk about more reporting requirements, as well, in the bill we introduced but, I think that the cleanest cut way is ban the gifts outright, and if you are getting gifts, if you are getting a compensation, whatever it may be, from a non lobbyist, make sure that it's a more timely reporting mechanism, more easier for the public to follow.

Ted Simons: And what constitute, though, a gift?

Chad Campbell: You have to define what a gift is, and we just made sure that it was anything from the lobbyists considered a gift. And we have to scale that back, a cup of coffee is not a gift, and I think that there is common sense conversations that we can have around what define as gift, and I think that once we define what it is, you know, let's ban anything that the public views as a substantive handout.

Ted Simons: Attending a conference. Attending an educational event, these things. Gifts?

Chad Campbell: If it's from a lobbyist I would say yes, and we have ways to deal with that, and we have constituent service accounts that we can set up and raise money like we have a campaign finance account, and you can use that for attendance, and you can still get travel arranged by non lobbyist organizations, educational trips, so I think that yes, any type of travel from a lobbyist should be ban.

Ted Simons: And does that sound viable to you?

Michele Reagan: It sounds great in theory. And I am certainly open to discussing any type of, of -- you know, any suggestions, welcomed. When you use the word, all-out ban, it's very scary to me. And in looking at other states that have done it, it has been a disaster, and let me give one example. Colorado, I believe, tried this, no gifts. The public loves it. However, lawmakers who had children who are attending college getting ready to go to college and applying for scholarships, there was a question on whether their children, let's say a child really got the scholarship on his or her merit, whether that would constitute as a gift because that's, that's state money. And so, it became such a mess in some of the states that have tried it. Let's be really careful what sounds good, and may not always work out. For instance, I will also say that you and I participated in the American young political leaders. A Great experience, I would not take that away from or from myself for anything. It was very expensive, what they did for us.

Chad Campbell: I agree.

Michele Reagan: And be careful, we need to be careful that those things are not -- that was such a, a, that was such an enlightening program.

Chad Campbell: And you have to define it as, you know, anybody that's involved in the directed lobbying, just kind of cut that off right there, and then you can define further from that point, but just to be safe, I think that gifts should be banned, and that's what, you know, we're striving for. Will it happen? I don't know.

Michele Reagan: I would like to mention, one thing, that I think is really important and overriding of all the election bills we're seeing from both Republicans and Democrats, and that is the thought of transparency and giving public, the information. I really believe that the public is smart enough to decide for themselves what is appropriate and what isn't, but they have to have that information. And so, if we are not able to do a gift ban of which, by the way, we have one in the state, it's $10, and anything over that is already prohibited so, you know, but give them the information, what interaction are we having with lobbyists, and they can decide if it's acceptable?

Ted Simons: Another bill here, regards, more time between submitting signatures and printing the ballot, what is this all about?

Michele Reagan: This is, what this is about is, is, Arizona is, has obviously grown in population and in voter registration, as you pointed out, and good news, this has come from the, the county recorders and the election officials, and they would like more time between when all of those signatures and petitions are submitted, and when the actual ballot being printed. And what we saw in this last election, and we have seen it before, is this rush to court and, and you, actually, literally have a judge saying that I have four hours to decide this because the ballot is being printed. And I don't think that is, I don't think that that's fair to citizens who, who, they sign these petitions, they want this, this on their ballot, and yet, our elections decisions are coming down to, to a window, and judges and attorneys deciding that for us. And this spreads that time out to give that, that process a little more time before the ballot printing.

Ted Simons: Makes sense to you?

Chad Campbell: It does, with one, one caveat to that, and I haven't seen this because, the Senate hasn't had to come over to the house, my only bill, I don't have a problem with moving the date back, as long as make sure that you are moving when you can start collecting signatures. Back accordingly, my only concern is do not compress the time frame that you allow signature gatherers to get signatures. It's hard enough to get something on the ballot as it is with the process. And so, let's make sure that you are giving those people out there that are volunteering their time to get signatures enough time.

Michele Reagan: I would agree with that.

Ted Simons: Ok. Another one of your ideas is involving provisionals and, you don't need one if you want to vote. This is an interesting thing. It confuses a lot of people. We have the recorder here, and every year, every election cycle, makes it clear, people are still bringing them. Talk to us about this.

Michele Reagan: And more ever the last election than before, and there are several things that, ways to address it, that don't need to be done legislatively, which is great, and more education to the voters of actually what, when they are signing onto that, that permanent ballot list, that what does that mean? And you are on service Arizona website and you check the box and you register to vote and it says, do you want a permanent, or people are checking the box and not really understanding, that means they are going to get their ballots by the mail. And they probably shouldn't go to the polls then, as well. It's an either-or, and but, then also, allowing the county recorders to percentage the list of people who don't want to be on that early ballot list and, and an example, you are moving, and, and the only way to get off of it right now, is in writing. Well, it's probably the last thing on the mind, I have got to call the county recorder and get myself off that ballot list. Come on, and they need to have the ability to, to judiciously make those decisions, you know. We don't want them, them crossing people that want to be on it but there is a lot of people that don't want to be on it, and that somehow find themselves on it.

Chad Campbell: There is a big concern for us. And I think that it will be a big concern for the department of Justice to be honest with you. The association of counties is promoting an idea that if you miss an election cycle, you don't vote in a primary or a general, general election, then you get notice from the county you live in, and if you don't respond within a month or so to that notice, they are going to wipe you off the permanent early voting list. This is incredibly problematic. You are punishing a voter who forgot to vote one time and I want to point out this is called the permanent early voting list, not the temporarily early voting list, or oops, I forgot, it is the permanent early voting list for a reason. And to me, I understand what the counties are saying, well, to save us money, and but the bottom line is, voters, voter suppression is never a way to save money. I think that the department of Justice will have a very big problem with this bill. And I think that, that a lot of your minority communities out there will have a big problem. We cannot kick people off the voting list because they forgot to vote in one election.

Michele Reagan: We got, just today, about 20 minutes ago we ended, the first elections committee meeting in the Senate, and we had a, we had a great discussion and there was community activists, people that work the ground and know elections inside and out who brought that up. And we have identified already three changes that need to be made to that particular bill. And I think that it's important to point out that, that what we're putting out there as options, at least in my mind, they are not cut in stone, they are not -- they are open for input, and not only that, but people had great ideas today, and those will be, incorporated in it. And it might not still something that you can support, but, the goal is not to disenfranchise people or take away something so important as their right to vote, and to vote the way that they want to. But, we need to also be able to live with, within the times, and you have people on list that don't want to be on it. How do you get them off? It's a balancing act. Chad makes a good point.

Ted Simons: Before we go from the democratic side, there are moves to disclose annually who paid for trips, and talking like dollars and cents, and also, an independent ethics commission, these kind of things. I wonder what the word independent means and how far that goes.

Chad Campbell: Well, again, yeah, you know, the devil is in the details but the point of the bill, and this is not my bill, but the point of the bill is to try to add another layer of accountability to the process, and if we think that somebody has violated the campaign finance laws of some kind, you can then send them to this independent ethics board commission, whatever to look into it further. If they find probable cause, for any further investigation or any legal types, they will send it to the proper authorities, and what we're trying to do, though, is just add another layer of accountability to our public process of campaign finance laws in the state, and election. I think the public deserves that.

Ted Simons: Real Quickly, did I see one of your ideas is to keep the elect officials who deal with elections from campaigning for others?

Michele Reagan: That's, actually, Senator's bill and I co-sponsored that with him. I really believe that if you are in certain positions like if you are a judge, my father is a J.P., he cannot be on any of my invites or house committees and I think that apply to certain people who monitoring our stated's elections.

Chad Campbell: And it's something in that I called for last year after Ken Bennett came out in favor of Romney and talked about kicking the President off the ballot. Something I called for at that time, and I applaud that idea, and I think --

Michele Reagan: Let me be clear there is not against Mr. Bennett because he, in 2010, actually brought this idea forward and said this was something that he supported so I stole it from him. And it is just a good idea.

Ted Simons: A good idea. What better way to say it. Good to have you both here and thanks for joining us.

Michele Reagan: Thank you.

Michele Reagan:Senator; Chad Campbell:Representative;

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