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ARIZONA OPINION

Arizona Opinion: Arizona candidates need to heed voters’ voices

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

Arizonans have faith in our elections. They’re not buying into rhetoric about stolen or unfair elections.

This comes from a survey conducted in August by Center for the Future of Arizona and HighGround Public Affairs. The survey found a disconnect between what Arizonans say is important and what candidates are talking about. It turned up surprising results, like the overwhelming faith in our state’s elections.

Three-quarters of those surveyed believe the state’s elections are fair, 70% say they’re secure, and 77% are confident November election results will be accurate.

This is good news for democracy. We should be gratified that those intimately involved in running elections have greater credibility than those seeking to undercut trust. Representative government works only if voters’ voices are heard, and it thrives only if voters trust the results.

Arizonans have long enjoyed an expansive right to make law via referendum, though doing so requires great attention to detail and a massive effort to collect signatures. This year, however, the Legislature is asking you to make it harder to have your say:

Proposition 128 would roll back the Voter Protection Act and allow legislators to change or repeal an entire voter-approved measure if the state or U.S. Supreme Court found any portion, no matter how small, to be unconstitutional.

Proposition 129 would require initiatives to have a single subject, thus imposing additional costs and barriers for citizens unhappy with legislative inaction.

Proposition 132 would require a 60% majority for any initiative that includes a tax increase, which former state health director Will Humble notes would have killed the initiative that banned smoking in public places.

How much of your voice as a voter are you willing to give up?

Carefully review the arguments for and against these measures in the “What’s on My Ballot” booklet mailed to voters or available at www.arizona.vote under “Publicity Pamphlet.” Because ballot initiatives are such an important way for voter’s voices to be heard, please study all 10 initiatives closely.

Amplifying your and your neighbors’ voices is the point of the Arizona Voters’ Agenda, which highlights the gaps between Arizonans and candidates.

Nearly half of those surveyed say candidates are not talking about what matters to them. Significantly, nearly two-thirds of Independents — the voters who generally decide elections — say candidates are not addressing their issues.

Immigration, the economy, education and water are voters’ top issues, and they’re looking for pragmatic solutions. The survey results raise questions to ask candidates:

How should Arizona invest in securing our water future, cleaner air, energy improvement in rural areas, protecting our electric grid, and managing our forests?

More than one-fourth say current water supplies should be prioritized to ensure rivers and natural waterways sustain wildlife and recreation. The same percentage put the priority on supporting agriculture. Another segment wants water to go toward population growth.

How will candidates balance these wishes? Ask for their plans.

Should Arizona prioritize cutting taxes or investing in critical infrastructure to keep up with growth, and why?

The Legislature in June approved a $1 billion increase in education funding, so we wanted to know if voters’ opinions had changed. They barely budged. Two-thirds of respondents (including half the Republicans) said schools remain underfunded and teacher salaries are still too low.

Most support greater investments in education, roads, and public safety over cutting taxes.

How do you propose to ensure all residents have access to safe and affordable housing?

Arizonans strongly support increased housing affordability and say state and local governments should play a role. There is strong support for expanding affordable housing options and prohibiting landlords from discriminating against people using housing assistance.

How will the candidates seeking to represent you create the Arizona you want? Keep after them to answer these questions. And then vote, because your voice is important!

Sybil Francis is president and CEO of Center for the Future of Arizona, a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that brings Arizonans together to create a stronger and brighter future for our state. Find the full results of the Arizona Voters Agenda at arizonafuture.org.


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