Shipley: HB 2404 is bad for democracy in Arizona

In 2013, HB 2305 famously changed the signature requirements of candidate campaigns such that new political parties like Libertarians and Greens would find it difficult, and in some cases numerically impossible, to place their candidates on the ballots.

Mike Shipley

This was passed by a Republican Legislature to guard their legislative majority, but when a coalition came together to refer that measure to the ballot they backpedaled, repealed their own bill, and once the election had passed, they adopted a new bill that was even worse than the original.

Incredibly, the 2016 Legislature — still under the thumb of a GOP majority — decided that guarding the ballot from challenges for office was not enough. Last week, Governor Ducey signed HB 2404, which sets the financial bar for bringing initiatives and referendums to the ballot even higher than it was before. This measure effectively silences ordinary people by ensuring that only the most financially privileged people of Arizona may ever place their own legislation before the people.

This injustice will not stand.

On Thursday, March 30, 2017 Grassroots Citizens Concerned put the Arizona Legislature on notice that their pattern of placing their own political interests above those of the people of the State of Arizona is unacceptable.
Here are a few reasons why we believe the people of Arizona will agree with us when this question is placed before them in November 2018:

  1. We already have a two-tiered system where grassroots individuals must stand outside in 100-plus degree weather to gather signatures for initiatives and referendums while moneyed interests can pay by the signature. HB 2404 creates a third tier of people who can afford the compliance costs for wage labor and knocks out the middle tier, which although challenging had been attainable for the grassroots level. This inequality is completely incompatible with the concept of a bottom up society of equals.
  2. By intervening in the paid petitioner marketplace, HB 2404 takes away a lucrative means by which low-income people can make a decent daily sum, and forces them into the minimum-wage model where they must work more hours for less pay for the sake of advancing the interests of wealthy campaign financiers.

If HB 2404 were really about protecting the ballot from signature fraud, it would have included candidate petitions — with which they also would have to comply — in its scope. Instead, we find that it applies to initiatives and referendums only — a populist innovation not available in many states, but which the framers of Arizona’s Constitution intended to be a mechanism for the people of Arizona to have the leverage of an equal check and balance on our representative bodies.

This choice to target acts of the people while excluding their own campaigns from the same requirements perpetuates a top down inequality that is contradictory to the spirit of a representative democracy.

It is for this precise reason, Grassroots Citizens Concerned, will be circulating a referendum to repeal HB2404 in its entirety to return the power to the people where it belongs.

Editor’s note: Mr. Shipley is the chair of Outright Libertarians, and founder and chair of Grassroots Citizens Concerned

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