Republicans want to make sure pesky voters don’t get in the way of their plans to cut down on the number of pesky voters. That’s the long term reason they’re voting to overturn HB 2305, the voter suppression law they passed last year, and why they’re patting LD-9 Republican Ethan Orr on the back for casting the deciding vote to get it out of the House Judiciary Committee. They can’t wait to kill their own bill so they can block the state-wide referendum to overturn it. Then, of course, they plan to reinstate it piece by voter suppression piece, making it referendum-proof.
But they have a short term agenda as well. This November, the referendum would be a magnet for exactly the kind of voters Republicans fear: Democratic-leaning voters. People who otherwise might sit on their hands and their ballots could come out in thousands, or tens of thousands, to vote down the voter suppression measures, which could give Democratic candidates the edge they need to beat out Republicans. With so many state offices on the line, that could spell Republican disaster. Kill the referendum, and Democrats lose a rallying cry.
Both parties love propositions that give their bases an extra incentive to vote. Arizona’s Republican legislators can use their majority to put hot-button propositions onto the ballot any time they want, but the Democratic minority doesn’t have that luxury. For Democrats, it takes money and shoe leather to gather the necessary signatures. Well, they managed to gather 146,000 signatures for the "Protect Your Right to Vote Referendum." If it’s on the ballot, Democrats can tell voters, “Republicans want to take away your right to vote. You can stop them by opposing the new law. And while you’ve got your ballot in hand, don't forget to support all those Democrats who support your right to vote."
Democrats know they can win state races. They’ve done it before; Napolitano and Goddard are two recent examples. Felecia Rotellini came within a hair’s breadth of beating Tom Horne in the last attorney general race. All Democrats need is a little extra push, which translates to a few thousand more voters, and they can do it again.
That, I’m guessing, is what Ethan Orr heard from his fellow Republicans. “Help us out here Ethan,” I imagine them saying. “Help us kill the referendum or we could have a DuVal/Rotellini/Goddard triumvirate telling us what to do.” Orr decided to be a good Republican soldier and carry the GOP banner in the crucial Judiciary Committee vote. Who knows, maybe he actually got those [fingers-crossed-behind-their-backs] assurances from fellow Republicans that they wouldn’t reintroduce the voter suppression measures piecemeal as he claimed. Who knows, maybe Orr actually believed them. Either way, the end result of Orr's vote will be the suppression of votes for Democrats, short term and long term.