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November 7, 2011

Host: Ted Simons

Arizona Voter Registration

  |   Video
  • ASU Political Science Professor Richard Herrera discusses the latest voter registration numbers for Arizona.
  • Richard Herrera - Political Science Professor,ASU
Keywords: voter registration, politics,

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Ted Simons: New voter registration numbers are out for Arizona. And here to talk about the numbers and what they mean for the state is ASU political science professor Richard Herrera. It's good to see you. Thanks for joining us.

Richard Herrera: Glad to be here.

Ted Simons: Looks like according to secretary of state's office, the number of registered voters down since the last count. What are you seeing here?
Richard Herrera: The story is more complicated than that. Yes, the number of registered voters is down, but the number of voters who could vote in the next election is not necessarily down. And the reason is, registered voters, the way the secretary of state's reporting them, is those who are active. And that can mean a number of things. But they also have another category of inactive voters who if they were to vote in the next election, they still go right back on the active list. They're not purged, they're just put in another category unless they're off the rolls due to a death or something like that, or they move out of state. Otherwise, just because a voter doesn't vote, doesn't mean they're purged from the roles, just that they're put on the inactive list.

Ted Simons: The secretary of state's office did mention county purging usually happens this time of year, so that's why so many -- every party, Democrat, Republican, Independent, all lost some voters. You're saying not quite as much as reported?

Richard Herrera: Not quite as much if you were to combine the active and inactive. Which is probably more accurate, only because it's still not going to be quite exact because of some people moving out of state, some people dying, but some of those people might just be people who missed three elections, if you miss three you can be put in the inactive list. There's a variety of reasons you why might miss three elections, so you might still be an active voter in the presidential year especially, when maybe you're not active in the midterm electrics or other elections. So you've missed a couple. So it's a little bit misleading, what the counties are doing is going through regular maintenance of their rolls, they do that usually April, July, October. And so you do see fluctuation. If you look over time you see fluctuations in the numbers and you get these results.

Ted Simons: Now, the last election did not seem to bring out as many Democrats as did it Republicans. Does that mean if the quote unquote purging of the rolls is from folks who maybe didn't vote in the last election, would that affect democrats more or it is the last three elections?

Richard Herrera: It's the last three elections before you can be moved into the inactive list.

Ted Simons: All right. Numbers anyway, general numbers from the secretary of state's office. Republicans at 1.1 million, independents right at about a million, democrats right under a million. What do we take from those numbers?

Richard Herrera: That does give arough breakdown of the percentage of voters in those categories. What's also interesting, those independents, it's been the case for a while independents outnumber democrats. And -- one of the interesting features is, when you look at the actual general election results, democrats will outnumber independents. And so it's not necessarily the case just because they're more independent -- voters who are registered as independent or no party affiliation outvote democrats. Democrats actually turn out to the polls more.

Ted Simons: We know one thing about independents, they don't vote quite as often as party members.

Richard Herrera: Right. That's a popular myth about independent voters that they tend to be more apt to vote than party registered voters.

Ted Simons: What else do we know about these independent voters? I'm saying that because hypothetically, but if you're a Republican you seem like you know where you stand, Democrat, you know where you stand. Who are Independents in Arizona?

Richard Herrera: Independents in Arizona are independents and a lot of them are independent-independent people. They don't want to affiliate with either party and they will vote for either party. Those sorts of independents tend not to vote as often as independent who's lean toward one party or the other. In Arizona you see more independents who actually lean more toward Republicans in general. So they do tend to vote fairly often and that's -- that can tip elections. But if you just look at the independent category, there's three types. There's independents who are really independent, they tend to vote less than those who lean democrats or lean Republican.

Ted Simons: Interesting. The idea of independent usually you hear that's a disaffected democrat or Republican, they'll still lean that direction. They're just not happy with the party right now. Is that valid?

Richard Herrera: Yeah, I think that's valid. What you see is the disaffected ones might be independent-independent or don't register at all. And so the ones who actually are independent democrats and independent Republicans are not so disaffected. Again, that is a strong term to use, they're going to vote probably and they're probably going to vote toward that inclination.

Ted Simons: Arizona by law as far as the primaries are concerned, presidential preference elections, you've got to vote within your party that means for independents, there's really not much of a game, and in the next cycle if things hold true, Democrats won't have much to vote for either.

Richard Herrera: That's correct. Republican prime I have going tonight one that's going to be watched. The only one you can participate in to have any influence and you got to be a registered Republican to do it.

Ted Simons: Is there any, I know there was a lot of movement at one point, I haven't heard much lately regarding changing that. Letting the whole thing be open for everyone.

Richard Herrera: Some states have open party primaries, there's a variety of permutations. The closed party primaries are usually those that the party's central committee, the state parties favor because they control more, who makes that choice for the state. And so they're favored by party regulars. Independents would like some say, so they would like more of the open process and some candidates benefit from open primary states.

Ted Simons: We talked about the numbers. Everything around a million, Republicans first, Indendpendents second and Democrats third, but everybody is bunched up together. We had heard a couple of cycles ago that Arizona was trending purple. Not so red, but certainly not a Democratic state, but somewhere in the middle. And this last election, just a conservative and Republican landslide. What do we take from these numbers? What are we seeing?

Richard Herrera: Probably the speculation that the state was turning purple was overstated. That really the numbers have been pretty trending in the same direction for a number of years. Since 1986, Republicans became -- had more registered voters than democrats. Since then, that gap between Republicans and democrats has only expanded. There isn't any evidence I've seen that democrats are making a comeback as far as party voting.

Ted Simons: Why has that gap expanded?

Richard Herrera: There's a number of reasons why people choose Republican party status and it could be new voters who -- in the state, that is a socialization of younger voters in Arizona being socialized by the politics of the states. Parents' influence, so they would adopt that same party registration. Also new voters coming into the state, as well, what we may be seeing is an exodus of democrats, perhaps, we don't know that, but we could see an influx of more Republicans.

Ted Simons: We heard places like Colorado, New Mexico, there was flux going on, change going on. And Arizona was supposedly seeing some of that change as well. We're not hearing that talk.

Richard Herrera: I think a lot of that talk is due to the last election. What happens in the succeeding elections they're going to make a difference, so for example the whole redistricting battle is going on right now. Can make a difference, so if you were to see competitive districts sort of winning the day, and democrats actually taking back a couple of seats, then you're going to hear the same talk. And that's based on results rather than party registration.

Ted Simons: Good information. Good to have you here.

Richard Herrera: Glad to be here.

Congestion versus Collisions Costs

  |   Video
  • Sitting in traffic and getting into crashes both cost you money. Which costs more? Linda Gorman of AAA Arizona will discuss the repercussions of both.
  • Linda Gorman - American Automobile Association, Arizona
Category: Energy   |   Keywords: AAA Arizona, Congestion, Car crash,

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Ted Simons: Getting into a traffic accident can cost you money. But sitting in traffic can cost money too. Question, which costs more? Here with the answer is Linda Gorman of Triple A Arizona. Thanks for joining us. Give us an answer. Which costs more?

Linda Gorman: Traffic crashes cost more. In fact, in Phoenix, three times more than congestion, which is pretty surprising. I think most people think what do you mean, I sit in traffic all day, every morning, but in fact, crashes are the true bigger cost to society.

Ted Simons: It would seem as though crashes were the bigger cost, but we're faced with congestion so much and we think about how much time is lost. How much productivity is lost. You start emphasizing it too much.

Linda Gorman: Exactly. Congestion, if you're in a bigger city especially you start to see congestion costs creep up. Even in Phoenix it costs an average person about $600 a year. Crashes cost the same individual $1500 a year. And that doesn't even mean -- you don't even have to drive. Even if you don't drive, you're still paying some of those costs through increased insurance premiums, medical care, all those types of things that are associated with crashes that we don't necessarily think about.

Ted Simons: I was going to ask how you assign costs for these -- start with crashes. Emergency services, these sorts of things?

Linda Gorman: All of these things impact our pocketbook at the end of the day. Things like emergency services, increased medical costs, increased health care costs, increased insurance costs which can be spread out, even if you're not -- you didn't have a traffic crash this year, for instance, if a lot of people did in an area, you may be subsidizing those costs. And things like lost time off of work, if you were in a crash. Property damage, personal damage, so all of those things factor into the cost of traffic crashes, and in Phoenix specifically that's about $1500 a person per year.

Ted Simons: Now, how do you assign costs to congestion?

Linda Gorman: Congestion costs are a little more fuzzy. Things like lost productivity, lost time, missed appointments, but then also real costs like increase in gas that you're wasting as you're sitting in traffic, increased car maintenance costs that are associated with sitting in traffic, or spending more fuel. So those types of things are what's included in the congestion costs. Interestingly, as cities tend to get larger, crash costs go down, but congestion cost Goss up.

Ted Simons: What do you want to see as far as Arizona leaders are concerned with basically making roads safer to knock it off with these traffic accidents?

Linda Gorman: Absolutely. Congestion seems to be at the top of people's mind, but when you look at crashes, we're seeing about three times the cost of crashes versus congestion. What that tells us and what we want policymakers to do is to make transportation safety a national priority. So we need to make our roads safer, put in stricter laws to make people safer on the roadways. Thereby we'll end up stop footing these huge bills.

Ted Simons: Is this the kind of thing that gets the ears of lawmakers, or something that flies under the radar so to speak?

Linda Gorman: You know, there's been tremendous progress made. We have a seat belt law in most every state now, if not a primary, a secondary. That has saved countless lives. We've also made strides in other areas, speed limit laws, child passenger safety laws, but there's still work to do especially here in Arizona. We still have challenges.

Ted Simons: Are the challenges more here than elsewhere? How do we compare to other parts of the country?

Linda Gorman: In terms of crash costs we're right about the national average $1500 per person in Phoenix, the average is about $1522. Miami in terms of the large metropolitan cities, that's where you'll spend the most. That's about $2,000 a person.

Ted Simons: How come?

Linda Gorman: You know, I don't know. Miami is a pretty populated city, but it could be people drive faster in Miami, I don't know. It could be health care costs are more than they are in Phoenix. Inversely San Francisco is about a thousand dollars a person. So when -- that's when you look at the large metropolitan areas. Phoenix it's right in the middle.

Ted Simons: The larger the metropolitan area the congestion costs go up, and the smaller the area, the accident costs go up?

Linda Gorman: crash cost, but in fact, what happens is you have more traffic on the road, which increases your congestion co, but more traffic on the road decreases the type of severe crashes that don't have a lot of fatalities, serious injuries, serious property damage claims, and those types of things, those really severe crashes are the type of things that cause those costs to go up. So while we still have crashes in very densely populated urban areas, they tend to be less severe crashes.

Ted Simons: Interesting. Why did you look at this? Why compare congestion with accidents?

Linda Gorman: Because there is that false mind-set, people think congestion costs so much money, it's so much wasted time, wasted productivity. There's a lot of emphasis on reducing congestion and it's not that it isn't important, but traffic crashes are shown to be three times more important in terms of saving lives and saving money. So we want the focus to be on increasing laws, and strengthening laws that can save more lives.

Ted Simons: I was going to say, getting the message out, I know you do a lot of public service type stuff, but this probably caught the public's attention.

Linda Gorman: Absolutely. In Arizona we do have a seat belt law, but it's still secondary. We don't have a distracted driving law A. text messaging law, we still have one of the state's weakest child passenger safety laws. Those things, we want policymakers to realize there are true costs to everyone in society.

Ted Simons: All right. Good stuff. Thank you for joining us. We appreciate it.

Linda Gorman: thank you for having me.

Open Meetings Law

  |   Video
  • Constitutional Attorney Dan Barr talks about how the State’s open meetings law applies to the state legislature and the Independent Redistricting Commission as well.
  • Dan Barr - Constitutional Attorney
Category: Government   |   Keywords: open meetings law, Redistricting ,

View Transcript

Ted Simons: Good evening, and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. Congressman Ben Quayle's mother denies allegations that she tried to help her son retain his congressional seat by asking Governor Brewer to remove the chairwoman of the Independent Redistricting Commission. The allegation was circulated by Democrats in the national media after the governor ousted Colleen Mathis from the commission, allegedly at the behest of Representative Quayle and three other Republican congressmen. The governor's office also denies the alleged conversation with Marilyn Quayle took place. The Tohono O'odham tribe is talking about doubling down, as it were, on its plans for a West Valley casino. A recent state Supreme Court victory has the tribe look again at earlier plans for a bigger casino with more amenities. The governor and the state senate last week removed Colleen Mathis from the Independent Redistricting Commission. That's the group responsible for redrawing Arizona’s congressional and legislative district boundaries. It's a five-member panel of citizen volunteers. Two Republicans, two Democrats, and one Independent. Until recently, Mathis was the commission's independent member and its chairwoman. Several reasons have been given for removing her from office, and tonight we consider one of those allegations. That she prearranged votes in violation of the state's open meetings law. Here to talk about that law and how it applies to the redistricting commission is Attorney Dan Barr, a constitutional expert from the Phoenix law firm of Perkins Coie. Thank for joining us. What is the open meetings law in Arizona?

Dan Barr: The open meetings law was enacted about 50 years ago in 1962 by the legislature. And it applies to all public bodies in the state. It applies to the legislature, all boards and commissions in the state, city councils, school boards, and the like.

Ted Simons: What constitutes a violation?

Dan Barr: There are all sorts of violations. Having a meeting in secret, a meeting is defined as a quorum of the public body, say if you have a five-member board, and three of them meet in secret, that's a violation of the open meetings law. It also requires that notice be given of the meeting at least 24 hours ahead of time and the notice be specific enough to allow people to know what the public body is going to discuss. So if the public body has a meeting within 24 hours of the notice, that's a violation, if they discuss matters that are not on the agenda, that's a violation. If they take legal action on things that are not listed on the agenda, that's a violation.

Ted Simons: And if it's a five-member commission, let's say, and the chairperson speaks to two other members individually, not together, not in a group, but individually, that's a violation?

Dan Barr: That could be a violation. There's no case law on that. There's two Arizona attorney general opinions on it. It's basically a hub and spoke method of violating the open meetings law. It's borrowed from conspiracy law. If you have one person reaching out to several people and sort of achieving consensus without a quorum talking to each other, that could be considered a violation of the open meetings law. But again, that's a highly factual determination, and you have hearings to determine whether or not that's happened or not.

Ted Simons: Is this a criminal violation? Is it a civil matter?

Dan Barr: It's a civil matter. What the open meetings law provides for most cases, if you find a violation that then whatever legal action the public body took is null and void. At that point the public body has option under ratification which is essentially a do-over. They can then have another public meeting and essentially ratify the action that they took in violation of the statute, and go ahead and enact it.

Ted Simons: So what else would be a usual penalty, a slap on the wrist, don't do this again?

Dan Barr: Gikdubg something null and void is a pretty big deal, and you get your attorney fees assessed against you. Other penalties are up to a $500 fine to the individual officials and the ultimate penalty is removal from office. I'm unfamiliar with any court removing anyone from office under the open meetings law. There was a consent decree that the attorney general's office entered into about 20 years ago involving a west side school district, but that's it.

Ted Simons: So let's get to the IRC and the commission here and the allegations that violations occurred regarding the open meetings law. Let's say before we get into nuts and bolts, let's say a violation did occur. Does it seem as though, I think I just heard you suggest as much, that removing someone especially the chairperson of a commission, is unusual to say the least?

Dan Barr: It's never happened, so yes, it would be unusual. The usual penalty would be to nullify the legal action, in this case hiring the mapping firm, the mapping consultant, you would nullify that and you would then have the IRC with the opportunity to ratify its action. And to do that they'd have to give 72-hours' notice of a meeting, they'd have to give more detailed agenda of what they were going to do, but they could go ahead and do the same decision over again.

Ted Simons: Now let's get to nuts and bolts here. What did the governor and Republicans in the state senate, what are they saying that Commissioner Mathis did?

Dan Barr: My understanding what they're saying, they're saying there are allegations that Commissioner Mathis and the two Democratic members on the telephone agreed with one another that they would hire this mapping firm. And did so outside of an open meeting. That is a factual determination. I'm unaware of any facts that support that. What would happen in the ordinary course is you would file a lawsuit, and then you'd take the depositions of Commissioner Mathis and its other people and find out what happened. Here what the governor has done is saying, “There are allegations of this.” And I'm unaware of any sort of conclusive proof one way or the other what happened. Just merely making a phone call is not enough to make a violation. You have to make a phone call and try to achieve consensus outside of the public meeting. If one member of a public body calls the other and says, “What are you doing for dinner tonight?” that's not a violation of the open meetings law.

Ted Simons: We don't know, because we haven't really heard from the chairwoman yet.

Dan Barr: Exactly. And that's what would happen in a court proceeding. You would take the testimony and a fact finder would decide what had happened. That hasn't happened yet.

Ted Simons: What's the difference between the allegations against the commission and what I would imagine happens quite often at the legislature regarding a variety of issues. I mean, is there a difference there?

Dan Barr: Well, first of all, the commission, one of the issues that's going to be decided by the Supreme Court and the superior court by Judge Finkon September 16th and by the Supreme Court possibly on November 17th, excuse me, is what open meetings law provision applies to the IRC. There is a provision in the state constitution that says when a quorum is present, the Independent Redistricting Commission shall conduct business in an open to the public with 48 or more hours of notice. Commissioner Mathis and the two Democratic commissioners are arguing that provision applies to the IRC specifically, and not the statutory open meetings law. So the issue is, do you read the constitutional provision together with the statute, or does the constitution trump the statute? If the commissioner and others are correct, then if these telephone conversations took place, their argument is that doesn't apply to deliberation and such that the statutory open meetings law applies to, so we're not in violation. If the constitution doesn't apply and the statute does, their argument is, you haven't established sufficient facts that show there's a violation. But getting to your question about the legislature, the open meetings law does apply to the legislature. There's an exception for political caucuses, and an exception for committee meetings. However, Attorney General Bob Corbin in an opinion 28 years ago held that the political caucus exception has to be very narrow in scope, it applies only to determining what your party policy is, and not taking a vote and achieving consensus on a bill, especially when your political caucus has a majority, which the Republicans and the state senate do. So what happened here was my understanding is the Republicans caucus and the state senate met briefly, and then they went about and they tallied the votes amongst each other. They did so outside of an open meeting. And eventually the time line is this: at 4:30 p.m. on November 1st, Secretary of State Ken Bennett, the acting governor, sends as letter to Colleen Mathis saying, “You're out of here.” 35 minutes later, they conduct a special session of the legislature of which my understanding there was not 24 hours notice of. The special session lasts for all of an hour and 25 minutes, and so only two hours after Commissioner Mathis gets notice she's been removed from office, the state senate votes two-thirds majority to remove her from office.

Ted Simons: Question marks?

Dan Barr: A lot of question marks. It doesn't seem to be complying with the open meetings law.

Ted Simons: Oh, my goodness. What's next here? We have a hearing November 17th? Oral arguments for this?

Dan Barr: Right. There are two cases. There's a case in superior court, which is the open meeting suit originally filed by Attorney General Tom Horne, who's now been disqualified because the attorney general's office gave advice originally to the Independent Redistricting Commission on the open meetings law. There's a hearing in that case on November 16th. And one of the issues will be does the state constitution open meetings law provision prevail or does the statutory provision? Then on November 17th, there will be a hearing on the special action before the Arizona Supreme Court.

Ted Simons: All right. Keep an eye on both. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us, we appreciate it.

Dan Barr: Thanks for having me.