Arizona's 23rd state legislative district in eastern Maricopa County doesn't have an awful lot of Democrats.44.4% of the registered voters are Republicans, 33.7% are independents or unaffiliated and just 21.9% are Democrats. Perhaps you can imagine the calibre of representation the folks in the district get, right now from 3 crackpots, Michelle Ugenti-Rita of Scottsdale in the state Senate and Jay Lawrence and John Kavanagh, both from Fountain Hills, in the state House.
Kavanagh's name may sound familiar; when he was in the state Senate, he served as president pro tempore. In November he was elected in a 3 way race with 37.2%, Democrat Eric Kurland winning 28.1%. He's from Queens and we're around the same age. He went to NYU when I was at Stony Brook. Back then students we taught how conservatives were beaten again and again on the issue of the franchise (aka, suffrage)-- who gets to vote. So he knows and when he introduced legislation this month to limit the franchise-- defending it by saying "not everyone should vote" and that the legislature has the right to determine the "quality" of potential voters-- he knew which side of history he was coming down on.
When the U.S gained independence from Britain-- something conservatives opposed-- only 6% of the population was allowed to vote-- white, male, adult property owners. It wasn't until the middle of the 19th century that every state had abolished the property owner requirements. Progressives fought a long war to expand the right to vote-- for non-whites, for women... It's an unending war still being fought today. 5 constitutional amendments dealt with those victories over conservatives:
15th Amendment (1870)- "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude."
19th Amendment (1920)- "The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex."
23rd Amendment (1961)- allowing residents of the District of Columbia to vote in presidential elections
24th Amendment (1964-- when Kavanagh was in high school)- "The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice President, for electors for President or Vice President, or for Senator or Representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any State by reason of failure to pay any poll tax or other tax."
26th Amendment (1971)- "The right of citizens of the United States, who are eighteen years of age or older, to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of age."
Despite all that, complete elimination of racial disenfranchisement wasn't secured until the the Voting Rights Act of 1965, a bill that so deranged and convulsed the South that the entire flipped from solid blue to solid red. Yesterday afternoon, Tim Bella, writing for the Washington Post, reported about Kavanagh's ugly little war against democracy. "Amid a contentious hearing over proposed restrictions on Arizona’s vote-by-mail system, a Republican state lawmaker argued that voters who hadn’t participated in recent elections should no longer automatically have absentee ballots mailed to them. The reasoning, said state Rep. John Kavanagh (R), is that Republicans care more about alleged voter fraud than Democrats-- and that 'everybody shouldn’t be voting. Democrats value as many people as possible voting, and they’re willing to risk fraud. Republicans are more concerned about fraud, so we don’t mind putting security measures in that won’t let everybody vote-- but everybody shouldn’t be voting,' he told CNN this week."
That's the age-old conservative viewpoint on democracy-- the fewer people voting, the better. Bella continued that "despite no evidence presented of dead people voting or residents using absentee ballots that weren’t their own in Arizona, the longtime lawmaker insisted the proposed voting measures in the state, like the hundreds of others in states nationwide this year, reflected how 'quality' mattered just as much 'quantity. Not everybody wants to vote, and if somebody is uninterested in voting, that probably means that they’re totally uninformed on the issues,' Kavanagh said to the outlet. 'Quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes, as well.'" And who better to judge quality than Trumpist goon John Kavanagh?
His comments have drawn the ire of voting rights experts and critics who accused the Republican of using rhetoric “straight out of Jim Crow,” as author Ari Berman said, at a time when GOP-controlled legislatures are advocating stricter voting measures across the United States. The push from Republicans comes on the heels of former president Donald Trump promoting baseless claims of voter fraud without evidence for months.
So far, more than 250 bills on voting restrictions have been introduced in state legislatures nationwide in 2021, according to data compiled by the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University. In Arizona, where close to 80 percent of voters cast their ballots by mail in the last election, the state government has already introduced 24 bills restricting voting rights this year.
This week alone, the Arizona Senate approved a bill that would require voters to submit identification as part of their mail-in ballots. That was before a state House committee headed by Kavanagh approved the measure on Wednesday to stop mailing ballots to people who haven’t voted in the past four elections.
Kavanagh’s comments were denounced by voting rights expert Gloria Browne-Marshall, a constitutional law professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, as voter suppression that uses “language from the 1800s” in response to the election.
“When we see states like Arizona that have wanted to suppress the right to vote and found different ways to manipulate law and violence, it’s a slap in the face to democracy at its core,” said Browne-Marshall, the author of “The Voting Rights War: The NAACP and the Ongoing Struggle for Justice.” “This is just another level of American hypocrisy.”
...Browne-Marshall said that elected officials alleging or suggesting that dead people voted is “a racial tactic to suppress voters of color.”
“The slew of proposed voting laws in Arizona and across the country isn’t about voter fraud, because it simply doesn’t exist,” wrote Arizona Republic columnist Elvia Díaz. “It’s about keeping certain people from voting.”
Critics this week latched onto the term “quality” vote. Michael Waldman, president of the Brennan Center, said the “not very subtle subtext” of a quality vote means White voters.
“These remarks have a long, very ugly history in America,” Waldman said. “When you say something like this, it’s about race or class-- not quality or election integrity.”
The language used in Arizona is not new when it comes to promoting voting restrictions. As The Post’s Philip Bump has explained, the idea that some people are simply too ignorant to vote has a toxic history-- one rooted in intelligence and literacy tests that were central to limiting Black people from voting in the Jim Crow South.
The rhetoric has also been used in recent months by conservative pundits, including Ben Shapiro, who flatly said, “Not everybody should vote.”
The wave of voting restrictions introduced in places such as Arizona and Georgia, two states that flipped from Trump to the Democratic nominee, Joe Biden, in 2020, could set up one of the most significant clashes ahead of next year’s midterms, Waldman said.
While some of these bills in Arizona and nationally have gained momentum and could pass, the imposition of new restrictions might actually end up inspiring more people to turn out to vote, said Allan Lichtman, a distinguished professor of history at American University.
“Who is to say what is a quality vote?” said Lichtman, author of “The Embattled Vote in America.” “There is no vote god to define who is casting a quality vote.”