Bloomberg News reports on the latest terrible idea from Republican opponents of voting rights: "Arizona and Kansas, where top state posts come up for grabs next year, are creating two-tiered voting systems to bar some residents from casting ballots in all but congressional races." The new rules, instituted by Republican elections officials, "are in response to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in June that bars Arizona from rejecting federal voter-registration forms that don’t include proof of citizenship, which is required by both states. To comply, both plan to provide those voters with ballots listing just federal races."
In Kansas at least, the problem is a great deal more complicated than that, as nearly 20,000 legally registered voters are still "in suspense" thanks to early glitches from the rollout of Republicans' latest voting restriction law. If Arizona and Kansas Republicans' so-called "two-tier" voter registration system is upheld by the courts, expect more Republican legislatures to adopt the practice to shield themselves from accountability.
The Arizona Republic reports that "Organizers of a petition drive to put Medicaid expansion on the 2014 ballot say they probably won’t have enough signatures," and "that shortfall in signatures will allow Medicaid expansion to become law."
Some legislators reportedly argued that "the petition drive didn’t catch on because Arizona voters understood that Brewer’s Medicaid plan was the best deal for the state." And indeed, Arizona's painful recent history with Medicaid eligibility may have played a roll in voters' rejection of the initiative. Back in 2010, Arizona Republicans cancelled 98 previously-approved organ transplants as a cost-saving measure. After some of those patients died as a result of the decision, Republicans "solved" the problem by cutting off Medicaid entirely to 140,000 other Arizonans.
By accepting Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, almost all of which would be paid for by federal tax dollars rather than the state, voters have hopefully put such tragedies behind them by refusing to sign this ballot initiative.
A very sad thing happened on the floor of the Arizona state House on Wednesday. From the Associated Press: "Republican Rep. Steve Smith on Wednesday said the prayer offered by Democratic Rep. Juan Mendez of Tempe at the beginning of the previous day's floor session wasn't a prayer at all. So he asked other members to join him in a second daily prayer in 'repentance,' and about half the 60-member body did so. Both the Arizona House and Senate begin their sessions with a prayer."
According to Rep. Mendez, who identifies as atheist, "'I wanted to find a way to where I could convey some message and take advantage of the opportunity that people have when they offer these prayers,' he said. 'If my lack of religion doesn't give me the same opportunity to engage in this platform then I feel kind of disenfranchised. So I did want to stand up and offer some kind of thing that represented my view on what's going on.'"
Fellow Democratic state Rep. Jamescita Peshlakai was far more outraged by Smith's attack on Mendez' beliefs. "'I want to remind the House and my colleagues and everybody here that several of us here are not Christianized. I'm a traditional Navajo, so I stand here every day and participate in prayers,' even without personally embracing them, said Peshlakai, D-Cameron. 'This is the United States, this is America, and we all represent different people ... and you need to respect that. Your God is no more powerful than my God. We all come from the same creator.'"
Republican legislators in the Grand Canyon State have just started the legislative session, but already they are having problems holding back their extreme ideas and policy positions. As detailed by The Huffington Post "proposals described by one top Republican as 'esoteric' and criticized by Democrats as unconstitutional have dominated the headlines – despite promises from GOP leaders to focus on top-tier issues such as balancing the state budget and improving education."