Politicians don’t like to be told what to do.
Oh, sure, there is an election, and promises, and practically all the candidates pledge their commitment to “the people,” but when the campaign ends and the oath of office is administered, it’s less about what voters want and more about politics.
Politics has become a code word for “agenda.” Political parties have an agenda. Politicians have an agenda. The agenda is usually focused on furthering the authority of the political party or the elected officials in the majority.
We’re witnessing this on the state and local levels. Cochise County supervisors are hell-bent on turning our elections into a partisan contest favoring the majority political party, and Republicans at the Capitol are continuing a years-long effort to limit citizen initiatives.
Tuesday the GOP supervisors on the county board ignored public calls to keep an independent elections director and approved moving the office under the authority of the recorder, Republican David Stevens. This fits with the agenda of Supervisors Tom Crosby and Peggy Judd, and Recorder Stevens, to eliminate voting machines and force future elections to be hand counted.
It also puts Republicans firmly in control of any and all elections in Cochise County. Instead of a non-partisan office and director hand-counting ballots in future local, county, state and federal elections, we will now rely on the office of an elected official — most likely a Republican — in Cochise County.
Judging from the disregard and disdain Mr. Crosby and Ms. Judd have for public meetings and public input, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the entire election process absent of all public inspection. When the balloting is done, these officials may just hold a meeting and tell us who won and lost.
Republicans in the state Legislature are still curating wounds incurred in recent years when voters had the audacity to impose a minimum wage law, then approved legalizing recreational marijuana, then overturned legislation increasing the number of Arizona students eligible for Empowerment Scholarship Accounts.
All of these successive defeats (losses for the GOP, not the majority of state voters) were possible due to a provision of the Arizona Constitution that allows citizens to petition for ballot referendums to create new laws or overturn existing or pending laws.
The Republican solution? Kill the citizens’ initiative provision in the Arizona Constitution. Instead of trying to win a majority of voters, our state lawmakers have been scheming ways for the past several sessions to weaken the constitutional amendment and reduce or eliminate the voice citizens have in running state government.
The most recent effort is an initiative introduced by veteran Chandler Republican Sen. J.D. Mesnard to require petition signatures for citizen initiatives from all 30 legislative districts across Arizona. Of course this will make it more difficult for citizens to get a measure on the ballot by making it harder to gather the required number of signatures.
We like to think that one of the fundamental principles of the Republican Party is a foundational commitment to representative government.
Unfortunately, that’s not what we’re seeing in Cochise County, or in the Arizona Legislature.
What we’re seeing is a political agenda played out to control elections, quell citizen input and impose the conservative ideology.