Vote 2014: Secretary of State Debate

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The Arizona Secretary of State deals with elections issues and is first in the line of succession to become governor, which has happened several times in our state. Democrat Terry Goddard and Republican Michele Reagan debate the issues as they vie to become the next secretary of state.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to this special "Vote 2014" of "Arizona Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Tonight's show is a debate sponsored by Clean Elections. We'll hear from candidates competing for Arizona's Secretary of State. As with all of Arizona Horizon's debates this is not a formal exercise, it's an open exchange of ideas, an opportunity for give and take between candidates, for one of the State's most important offices. As such, interjections and even interruptions are allowed, provided all sides get a fair shake, and we'll do our best to make sure that that happens. The Secretary of State is Arizona's chief elections officer, and the first in line to succeed a sitting governor in the event that governor cannot complete a term, something that seems to happen with some regularity here in Arizona. Two candidates are competing to be Arizona's next Secretary of State. They are in alphabetical order Democrat Terry Goddard, former Arizona Attorney General and Republican state Senator Michele Reagan. Each candidate will have one-minute for opening and closing statements. Earlier we drew numbers to see who goes first and that honor goes to Terry Goddard.

Terry Goddard: Thank you, Ted, and thank you for providing this discussion opportunity. I'm running for secretary of state because Arizona's election system is a mess. We're 46th in the nation in participation and we're falling like a rock. Groups, entire groups are being shoved out of the process starting with Independents, the largest group of voters in our state, who have a terrible time getting a ballot in the primary. Dark money, that anonymous corporate cash that seems to be having its way with our elections is flooding into the state of Arizona, and that causes voters to be discouraged. How can you know your vote counts when you're not sure who's arguing on one side or the other? The legislature hasn't really helped very much. Last year they passed a voter suppression bill which we have tried to extinguish. I believe the next Secretary of State has to be absolutely committed to knocking down the barriers and to making sure that dark money is stopped in the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons: All right. Thank you very much. For the next opening statement we turn now to you, Michele Reagan.

Michele Reagan: Thank you, it's wonderful to be here tonight. My name is Michele Reagan and I'm a current state senator. I am really thrilled to be running for Secretary of State. I'm extremely excited and passionate about two areas of law, and two areas that I've worked on extensively in my 12 years down at the Capitol. Those two areas have been business law and election law. I was chair of the elections --. Commerce Committee when I was in the house for eight years. And now that I'm in the Senate I am chair of the elections committee. When you look at the role of Secretary of State, those are the primary -- primarily the role of what the Secretary of State is, business filings and elections. And so I'd like to think that just about everything I've done at your state capitol the last 12 years has tailored me to make an excellent Secretary of State. So I'm very excited about the vision and plans I have for the office.

Ted Simons: Very good, thank you both. Terry, let's start with you. What is your vision for Secretary of State, and how much vision should there be with the state's chief elections officer and records keeper?

Terry Goddard: I think we have a lot to make up for, Ted. A certain amount of vision is critical. My vision is for an inclusive system one that makes sure that all citizens have an equal chance to vote. Whatever letter comes after your name, I think it's absolutely critically important. The system has to be absolutely fair and the voters have to know that. Recently we've had Secretaries of State doing political stunts or endorsing candidates, in a way that makes the voters from the other side feel maybe their participation isn't as welcome. I mention in the opening Independents. My vision includes independents as full, equal players in this process. Right now they are not. They have to petition for a ballot in the primary. They don't get one by mail automatically. If they want to run for statewide office they need 33,000 signatures and a Republican or Democrat only needs about 7,000. That's not fair.

Ted Simons: Your vision for this office.

Michele Reagan: We have put out an extensive plan on things we want to do. We've broken it down to 100 things we can accomplish in the first year. Can you imagine roving kiosks that register young people to vote in the schools and high schools? They receive a voter registration card from the State when they are 18. Imagine Independents being able to skip that extra step they have right now, and be able to get their early ballots the same way other parties receive their early ballot, automatically. Imagine a voter rights ambassador, if you will, out in the community working to make sure voting rights aren't trampled in communities where they have problems with voting. Imagine a system, there's new software to allow citizens to be able to verify the vote. There are so much exciting technology and exciting news in the elections world.

Ted Simons: Terry Goddard over here kind of mentions discrimination and mentioned that being perhaps a problem as far as the election landscape. Do you see that as an issue, as a problem?

Michele Reagan: Well, we see -- especially, let's take for example on the Navajo reservation. When we come up with things on the state level and county level, some is new and interesting stuff. Take for example the permanent early voting laws. You need to go and educate people sometimes in their own language when. We visit our counties and other areas, sometimes they don't know about the new tools that are available and access to the different ways to vote, only because it hasn't been focused to them or educated to them in their language. So there's barriers perhaps we don't know about, because people aren't out visiting these communities.

Ted Simons: You mentioned discrimination. What did you mean?

Terry Goddard: I mean very serious discrimination against students who have to vote a federal ballot. They are treated as second class citizens in the state of Arizona. I'm talking about Independents who as we've agreed have to petition for a ballot every election to vote in the primary as is their right. But I'm talking also about other citizens that, in for instance Senate Bill 1062, was an effort to discriminate against some of our fellow citizens, the gay and lesbian community. It seems that's absolutely wrong and cannot be reflected in the Secretary of State's office. We have to make a clear statement that the office is totally fair, totally -- will call balls and strikes absolutely equally and has no partisan or other discriminating factor. That's not the way it's been played for the last 20 years. It's been unfortunately the Legislature and the Secretary of State have worked together to set up a system that is, as I said, a mess.

Ted Simons: You voted for 1062. Why?

Michele Reagan: 1062, bad vote. I mean, I voted for -- I've been in the legislature 12 years, Ted. And by my rough calculations I've cast over probably 10,000 votes. So I think it's kind of a little probably I would say inappropriate, and perhaps a little unfair to go through and cherry pick, you know, in a little half-hour program to cherry pick a couple of votes and you know, I would --

Ted Simons: If people think it's a discriminatory bill --

Michele Reagan: What would 1062 have to be discriminatory against elections?

Ted Simons: It wouldn't be fair if you voted for a discriminatory bill. Would you think --

Michele Reagan: Against people voting how? I guess I would have you draw the next -- 1062 discriminating against people voting.

Ted Simons: I'm talking about your critics here, I'm not debating you here. I'm talking about what others are saying. Why don't you go ahead and say it.

Terry Goddard: The civil rights is a package, Ted and Senator Reagan. I think we know from experience in the Deep South, in the civil rights era, access to a lunch counter or access to an equal seat on the bus and voting rights are all tied up in the same package. You can't say somebody gets a full set of equal rights in one area but then say, okay, it's not the same with voting.

Ted Simons: The bill is basically designed to protect religious freedoms and really doesn't have anything to do with the Secretary of State's office.

Terry Goddard: It absolutely has everything to do with the Secretary of State's office, if they are not making it clear that they are going to be absolutely fair in the execution of voting laws, and every vote is counted and everybody is equal. We're going to have what we have today, a rapidly decelerating people participating.

Michele Reagan: I'm going to tell what your message being sent right now. It's a hyper-partisan message, and a message of let's take, again, one vote, two votes, three votes, and go through the 10,000 votes and find a couple. And let's blow them up and try to make people angry. And let's try to look backward and let's try to upset people. And 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.

Terry Goddard: I've never heard of a legislative --

Michele Reagan: When we're talking about the office of elections, it should be of all the statewide offices. It should be the least partisan, the least let's go stir the pot office that there is. It should be the office of inclusiveness, the one that isn't trying to rally the base or anger and upset people.

Ted Simons: A hyper partisan argument on your side, respond, please.

Terry Goddard: Not partisan at all. The opposition to 1062 was totally bipartisan.

Michele Reagan: It has nothing to do with the office of elections.

Terry Goddard: Members of her party petitioned the Governor to veto that bill. Three senators wrote a letter to Governor Brewer, you've got to do the right thing and veto the bill. Senator Reagan was not one of those. It was very bipartisan, Arizonans from every stripe and certainly the business community said emphatically this is a mistake, this is leading us down the wrong road. I'm not cherry picking anything. This is something that unfortunately puts your stripe very clear.

Michele Reagan: You would think that would be endorsed by every business community probably in our great state. I mean, the chamber of commerce, FIB, the home builders, the realtors, you name it, are all supporting my candidacy. Really, if the business community was thinking that I was out to destroy business in Arizona, the fact is that 1062 was misunderstood by just about everybody in our state. It was misunderstood by many members of the legislature. It was misunderstood by many in the media. It was misunderstood by a lot of people. I don't know what the intentions of the bill were. The fact is, as I have said and it was presented in the paper: Bad vote. I urged the Governor to veto it. I was happy that she vetoed it. That was in the newspaper. We need to move on, this is a very short show. We have a half hour to explain to voters what we want to do in the office of elections.

Ted Simons: Yes, we do. We're conducting a debate and we will continue with that debate. Are you okay with that?

Michele Reagan: I would love to talk about elections.

Ted Simons: Then let's do it. Let's talk about the permanent early voting list. Should people be removed from the early permanent voting list if they are not voting early?

Terry Goddard: Well, I think they need to have -- there needs to be evidence that they are not going to use this privilege and it is a privilege. I side with the county recorders who say we need to have some way -- right now they have no way -- to take somebody who is medically incompetent, or if you have a doctor's certification that Mrs. Jones really doesn't have the capacity to vote, but she keeps getting a ballot. I want to be able to stop that. Somebody who clearly doesn't live at this location anymore by return mail, I think they should be able to stop it. I think to purge somebody automatically from missing some elections, and there's a dispute about how many elections, but the way I read -- excuse me -- 2305, the bill Senator Reagan proposed and passed was that it would have taken somebody who missed only one election and put them on the list to be purged. That's a subject to confusion because it's written so badly.

Ted Simons: Is that a good idea for Arizona, removing people from the permanent early voting lists?

Michele Reagan: I think if people aren't voting, yes, they should be removed from the early vote if they don't vote in a lengthy period of time. The bill I wrote was written if you don't vote in four elections then you're remove from the early ballot list. Compared to other states that have similar laws, our law was actually written more generous. Most states that I've looked at, if you miss one election you're removed. In some states just missing one election just automatically removes you from the list. The reason for that is, they don't want live ballots going to homes where people aren't going to be using them. Or they would rather not vote by early ballot, they no longer live there or they have moved away. In some cases they are no longer living or they prefer to go to the polls. There's a reason for that. People sometimes don't take the time to have themselves removed.

Terry Goddard: The system does purge people who have died. I support evidence-based removal from the list. If you're not living there, you shouldn't get a ballot there if you're medically incompetent, you shouldn't get a ballot. I don't like the idea of taking people off the list after a relatively small number of elections. Individuals tend to miss primaries. They could arguably have taken independents off when they missed one primary. I think that's wrong.

Ted Simons: A ban on mass ballot collections. Why is that good for Arizona?

Michele Reagan: This is something I'm really passionate about. I see no reason why any individual, whether it's a candidate themselves, a campaign operative, a party, individual, myself, you, anybody, should be in possession of an extraordinary number of ballots. Right now the state law has no limits, no restrictions, you yourself could walk into a polling place on election day with 100 ballots and turn them in. There is no other state in the country that allows someone to do that. It is an absolutely laughable practice. The reason why that is not allowed? Why would anybody need to do that? It creates a system where there is an opportunity for fraud and that is not acceptable.

Ted Simons: A laughable and unnecessary system. Respond, please.

Terry Goddard: I think people have a right, if they are voting by mail, to trust a loved one or somebody else to take the ballot to a polling place. I agree that what Senator Reagan occasionally called harvesting is wrong, and that implies somebody who's picking up ballots is picking and choosing. You can't hold on to ballots understand the law today and I want to invigorate this.

Ted Simons: Critics say it's a way to suppress the Latino vote. How do you respond to that?

Michele Reagan: That is not backed up by evidence at all. It's -- you know, there's many groups that claim that they go out and collect ballots. And there's some groups that are church groups going around and doing it. There's -- I don't see it as a group that is based on any particular ethnicity. It's just something I happen to not agree with. Again, no other state allows it and they respectfully disagree. Harvesting of ballots and going around, the collection of ballots in an unlimited quantity is legal in Arizona and it is not allowed in any other state. Ability to go door to door and say, I'm here to collect your ballot, hand it over to me.

That can and should be able to be allowed to in certain circumstances. but the ability to collect 1,000 of them.

Terry Goddard: Well, I'd like to have some evidence that there was any fraud and so far she's produced no evidence of any fraud. The bottom line, I have the same reaction I think everyone does, a very large number of ballots in one person's hands seems unhealthy. We ought to be able to have reasonable caps consistent with evidence, with saying a particular group is abusing the process. I haven't seen that evidence. Let's look carefully before we jump. The thing that's at stake here is your right and my right to vote.

Michele Reagan: When you have the head of the Maricopa County elections stand in committee and testify that there were people showing up at doors, people's doors with T-shirts made that said Maricopa County elections. And saying I'm with Maricopa County elections and I'm here to collect your ballot. Only Maricopa county elections doesn't do that.

Terry Goddard: I don't know, I think that would be fraud and should be prosecuted.

Michele Reagan: They weren't able to catch the people, because these are people picking up the phone and saying, there was somebody just here and we handed over our ballots to them. Just because somebody wasn't caught, you put your head in the sand and say it's not happening is also not right.

Terry Goddard: This is allegation and here says those ballots mailed out are traced. If we have a problem with custody we should fix that. We should make sure custody from the voter to the polling place is absolutely intact. That's the harder issue, and that's what I support. We don't want to mess with people's right to vote. It's been done too often. We have tried to respond to mostly legal problem, it's made our system a mess and made independents and others feel like they are not part of the process anymore.

Ted Simons: Is dual-track voting necessary for Arizona?

Michele Reagan: Unfortunately it was necessary in this past election and, hopefully it will be not needed after the -- you have to look at how or why that decision was made. Arizona was caught between two laws or is caught between two laws that conflict with one another. Arizona is in a unique position, not necessarily a good position, but being caught between two lies, one that the voters passed on the balance which says voters need to show Portland-Vancouver of, here's a federal form where you you don't need to show proof. The attorney general said, here's a solution that satisfied the need to satisfy two laws that conflict with one another.

Ted Simons: Is it necessary?

Terry Goddard: Attorney general Horne said he's made a lot of mistakes. I believe the other 34 states have been waiting to see what the result of the 10th Court of Circuit Appeals is going to be. It's in the court right now. We could have saved almost $2 million spent implementing the dual track in the general. But $2 million to facility. This was an issue we didn't have to do and it cost us a huge amount of money in a state that's strapped for cash. I think it's. Partial.

Michele Reagan: I'd like to point out that the 34 states Terry mentioned. When we have a law that is voted on by the people, remember, that is very important, that is more -- that's what sets the other two states apart from the 34 states.

Terry Goddard: Legally that really has nothing to do with it. The question is whether you follow the federal form or the state form. And put them in site. I don't think we should be following Kansas.

Michele Reagan: Who we put more upon than -- time on the legislature. Pass this along.

Ted Simons: Should the Secretary of State serve as state campaign chair for other candidates?

Terry Goddard: Unequivocally not. It seems to me, I believe Senator Reagan and I are both emphatic about that. I think Ken Bennett, very nice guy, very good singer, by the way, I think made a serious mistake in being Mitt Romney's campaigner by a way to investigate the Secretary of State's certificate.

Ted Simons: Do you agree with that?

Michele Reagan: I can completely agree that you should keep campaigning out of the Secretary of State's office.

Ted Simons: Last question, we're getting close to closing statement time. Our little half-hour show is almost over.

Are you qualified to be governor?

Michele Reagan: I believe I am qualified to do wherever I end up serving, wherever I'm called on to serve, I will be absolutely qualified, given the experience in the legislature and also my private sector experience I've had growing the state of Arizona.

Ted Simons: And that includes growing Arizona?

All that experience walking the halls of the Capitol and growing a small business.

Ted Simons: Are you qualified to be governor of Arizona?

Terry Goddard: Yes, I believe I am. As mayor of Phoenix I had to meet a budget and work with the council and put together a very difficult situation and we made it work. As attorney general I represented all of the agencies but I think five in the state government. I know their innermost thoughts and I think I know their problems. That's a critical responsibility. I had to meet a budget, it's a challenge but this is a state that it's trouble because its election system is in decay and collapse and we need to fix it. That's the focus for me.

Ted Simons: We'll stop it right there. Each candidate will now give us a one-minute closing statement. Going in reverse order, we start with Michele Reagan.

Michele Reagan: Thank you. Again, thank you so much for having me tonight. I look at opportunities like this and opportunities like traveling around the state as one big job interview. And the position of Secretary of State is a job that I really want to do for you. It is something I have been preparing for. I have the necessary background and experience in the legislature. And growing my family's business in Downtown Phoenix, it is a job I really want to do for you. I ask for your support and for your vote on or before November 4th.

Ted Simons: Next we turn to Terry Goddard.

Terry Goddard: Thank you, Ted and thank you Clean Elections for this opportunity. I think it's a remarkable public service. You know, as I think of the problems we've talked about here today that Arizona is facing, the lack of trust and the folks trop dropping away from our election system, I'm reminded of a similar problem many of us faced in the city of Phoenix almost 30 years ago. In those days a small group controlled the city. Big parts of Phoenix have never been reported on the City Council. We cared so much we wanted to try to change it. We asked for a different system and literally blew down the doors and brought city participation to a new high. That was an explosion of people being involved in their same city. I've had it and I solicit your support and vote for Secretary of State. Thank you very much.

Ted Simons: And thank you very much for watching this special "Vote 2014" debate. The next debate will be tomorrow, October 8th, when we hear from candidates in the race for Congress in Arizona's 7th Congressional District. If you'd like to re-watch this debate or any other "Arizona Horizon," and we've got a bunch of them, check us out on the web, azpbs.org/horizon. That is it for now, I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Terry Goddard:Democratic Candidate, Arizona Secretary of State; Michele Reagan:Republican Candidate, Arizona Secretary of State;

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