The Reform Party of Arizona (RPAZ) reacted vigorously to the latest snafu by the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission (CCEC), sending representatives of the RPAZ State Committee to address the CCEC at their regularly scheduled meeting Tuesday (10/8/2002).
The CCEC is responsible for mailing a brochure containing the 100-word candidate statements of all candidates to all voters in Arizona. However, the CCEC intentionally omitted the names of 9 candidates who will be on the general election ballot.
The 9 candidates who were excluded were all successful write-in candidates in the primary election, including 5 Libertarians, 3 Republicans, and1 Democrat. Four of these candidates appeared at the meeting: Dr. Weyrich, Patty Kelly, Sherry Lindsay, and Bob Quilici.
Dr. Weyrich is running for the State Senate in District 8 (Scottsdale and Fountain Hills) and has been endorsed by the RPAZ. Patty Kelly is running for State Representative in District 24 (Yuma County plus 8 precincts in La Paz County). Both Weyrich and Kelly are running under the Libertarian banner since the RPAZ currently lacks ballot access. Jack Kretzer is the Chairman of the committee "5000 friends of Patty Kelly" and also the Yuma County Chairman of the RPAZ.
Lindsay is a Democrat running for State Representative in District 6, and Quilici is a Libertarian running for State Representative in District 26.
The Executive Director of the CCEC is on record as dismissing a legal candidate on the ballot out of hand. The East Valley Tribune reported on September 23 that [CCEC Executive Director] "Connor acknowledged it probably does not make much sense to investigate candidates such as Allen who have no opposition." The problem is that Ms. Connor was ignoring the successful write-in candidate Dr. Weyrich, who won a position on the general election ballot opposing the Republican incumbent Carolyn Allen. This clearly demonstrates the bias of the CCEC against successful write-in candidates. With that mindset, it is no wonder that the CCEC apparently did not make a good faith effort to include the successful write-in candidates. ["Clean Elections called heavy-handed" by Mark Flatten, www.aztrib.com/election/election10923.shtml].
Weyrich stated that he believes that the CCEC's action effectively gave the campaign of his opponent an in-kind contribution valued at about $7,500 -- the cost of a simple mailing to all voters in District 8.
The CCEC made a clear, conscious decision to exclude the successful write-in candidates from the general election brochure by choosing to only edit the primary brochure by deleting unsuccessful candidates.
The CCEC brochure contains the disclaimer that only candidates who were known to be on the ballot by September 16 were included. However, the CCEC decided in August that they would include any candidate who might be on the general election ballot, with an appropriate disclaimer if the race had not been decided by the press-date. The CCEC violated their own policy.
Under Arizona law, the counties were not required to report the write-in counts to the Secretary of State until September 17 (one day after the CCEC decided to go to press in order to meet the deadline for distributing the brochures before early balloting began). CCEC Executive Director Colleen Connor blamed the compressed time frame between the primaries and general elections. The voter guides were required by state law to be distributed to voters before the start of early voting.
Speaking for the Reform Party of Arizona, Vice Chairman John Gilbert emphasized that all priority must go to candidates who are in compliance with State law. He also emphasized the totally dominant importance of the Candidates Statements brochure in winning a local election. He is quoted in the Scottsdale Tribune as saying that "Maybe if the printer can't get it done, we can find another. This is a total slam dunk against those who met state law to get on the ballot. They cannot possibly have a fair chance at election if they're not in that book. Period."
Speaking for Dr. Weyrich (who had to leave the meeting to keep a prior commitment), RPAZ State Platform/Issues Chairman Dan Gutenkauf emphasized that by excluding the affected candidates from the brochure, the CCEC had in effect made an in-kind contribution to their opponents. Mr. Gutenkauf went on to point out that since early ballots have already been distributed, that the affected candidates are already suffering grave harm that requires immediate action by the CCEC. He further suggested that the best remedy would be an immediate supplemental mailing by the CCEC, although a prominent newspaper campaign, or direct financial assistance to support a mail campaign would be acceptable solutions to the inequity created by the CCEC.
After the meeting, John Gilbert (Vice Chair-RPAZ) also emphasized to Tribune Reporter, Scott Seckel that the burden is on the commission to provide remedy to the damages incurred by the write-in candidates because of lack of performance by the CCEC.
The Commission has scheduled a special meeting on Friday, October 11 to discuss the issue, but in the opinion of RPAZ Vice Chairman Gilbert John Gilbert, "We are probably heading for litigation for the candidates to make their case for damages. The expressions and body language of the Commission indicated no resolve to correct the error - just sort of 'oh well, we goofed.'" Libertarian candidate Bob Quilici agreed, saying "Ms. Conner was nice but I have negative vibes."
Dan Gutenkauf has long been active in the fight for "an honest vote count with transparent procedures." He has previously carried a complaint against the Maricopa County Elections Department (MCED) through the court system up to the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS). This complaint was based on the MCED "failing to comply with Arizona Revised Statute 16-601, which allows the public to observe the vote-counting process." Although the SCOTUS declined to hear the case, MCED was forced to change their Election Workers Training Manual, thereby conceding the validity of Mr. Gutenkauf's complaint.
Libertarians oppose the major funding mechanisms of the CCEC on First Amendment grounds, stating that taxation to fund political speech is tantamount to theft. However, Libertarians are also active in the fight to assure clean elections. A recent ballot initiative in Glendale to combat vote fraud by requiring a manual vote count was sponsored by the Libertarian Party.
Campaign finance reform has always been a signature issue of the Reform Party, which has supported the concept of the CCEC in the past. However, Jack Kretzer (Yuma County Chairman of the RPAZ) points out "The actions by the CCEC and staff clearly were not grounded in the concept of Reform. Their objective should be to get equal information out about all candidates for the general election ballot. When they removed failed candidates, they used unofficial election results to do so. Given names were removed then new successful names could have been added."
Kretzer considers the situation serious enough to file a civil rights violation complaint with the Justice Department and to seek the assistance of ACLU, because the CCEC did not make a good faith effort to include all of the known potentially successful candidates.
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