Friday, August 13, 2004

Democracy Lives In Arizona

As reported in the Arizona Republic, a developer-funded challenge to Arizona's Clean Elections system will not be on the ballot this November. On Thursday, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld a lower court's ruling that Proposition 106 violated Arizona's single-subject rule for legislation, and was therefore unconstitutional.

Since Arizona's voters approved the system of publicly financed elections four years ago, nearly half of Arizona candidates have opted to use the clean money, including Governor Janet Napolitano. Voter turnout has increased by 23%. The number of candidates running has increased by 24% in the primary, 13% in the general election. The number of uncontested races has decreased. In other words, more people are taking part in the political process, an excellent thing for any democracy.

As to be expected, the only people that have a problem with Arizona's record of success and the Arizona Supreme Court's decision are lobbyists and wealthy interests, who suddenly have to face legislators as citizens, not as financiers. Lobbyist Kevin DeMenna, who raises money for several legislators, calls the decision a "travesty":
"If a candidate is not able to raise funds from private citizens, then it speaks volumes about the viability of that candidate's message to begin with," DeMenna said.
Mr. DeMenna's bread-n-butter aside, Clean Elections candidates for governor in Arizona have to collect $5 from 4,000 private citizens. It is also hard to argue that clean candidates don't have viable messages when you consider that the people of Arizona elected clean elections candidates into 7 of 9 statewide offices, including Janet Napolitano as governor, and into 36% of the legislature's seats.

While anti-democratic opponents of clean elections will undoubtedly try again in the future to assert the rights of the wealthy over the rights of the many, Thursday's decision stands as a victory for the vast majority of Arizonans. As a model for the rest of America, where a similar majority is locked out of having an equal say in our political system, it stands as a victory as well.

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