A simple voter’s guide to the Arizona elections

I’ll confine my advice to the state-wide propositions. You can basically assume that anyone you vote for in Arizona with an (R) next to their name is going to be well to the right of Barry Goldwater and most Democrats are going to vote similarly to your moderate Northeast Republicans. Arizona is far from the reddest state – despite our rumblings to the contrary lately, and despite the fact that we reelect Sheriff Joe year after year – but our political class is generally kooky.

Anyways, as a rule, if the Proposition in question has been sponsored by the state legislature: vote No. If it is a voter initiative, you’re probably on much safer footing (think medical marijuana). When in doubt – and I hate to say this, but if you haven’t bothered to read up on the Propositions – when in doubt, just vote No on everything. That’s the lesser evil. Here’s a quick guide to the Propositions if you actually want to know a bit more about just what the AZ legislature has up its sleeve, and go to the polls Tuesday a tiny bit better informed.

44 replies
  1. 1
    Hunter Gathers says:

    but our political class is generally kooky

    Must be the dry heat.

  2. 2
    Comrade Luke says:

    If you vote no on everything, will everyone in the legislature get replaced next election?

    Because I hear that’s the way it works.

  3. 3
    suzanne says:

    My daughter met Terry Goddard today. She was so excited, it was awesome.

    I’m voting no on all of them except the medical marijuana one. because I just don’t give a fuck if sick people smoke a plant that grows in the dirt.

    Kyrsten Sinema is a rising star here in PHX. I hope she goes far in politics. She’s an awesome progressive and is very active in the community.

  4. 4
    Michael Finn says:

    Considering they continue to vote in Sheriff Arpaio in time and time again and he has cost the voters there north of $47 million in lawsuits, I ain’t holding my breath for a liberal revival there.

  5. 5
    MattR says:

    Anyone in New Jersey have an opinion about the public question on the ballot? From what I understand, it would ammend the constitution to force the state to completely segregate money dedicated for public employee’s pensions, disability, etc. My initial instinct is to vote “no” since I hate tying the hands of the legislature via ammendment even if I do agree with concept. But it is also my understanding the our Legislature has already been raiding those funds quite frequently in order to balance the budget without raising taxes. So it seems like this might be the exception where the Legislature actually needs their leash to be tightened. But that is based on a few quick Internet searches so I would love to hear from someone with more knowledge on the subject.

  6. 6
    Gold Star for Robot Boy says:

    I know I voted for MD MJ, and that might’ve been my only “Yes” on the props.
    (Upon further review…)
    I also voted for the Lt. Gov position – figured it would be a good thing for voters to know This person may be governor one day, rather than an obscure pol being elected Sec of State and then rising to the top through a vacated office.

  7. 7
    morzer says:

    You can basically assume that anyone you vote for in Arizona with an® next to their name is going to be well to the right of Barry Goldwater

    I blame the headless voters that they keep finding in the desert.

    So, ED, how’s the pink mohawk?

  8. 8
    JWL says:

    If you’ve even half a brain, yet still choose to live in Arizona, you’ve all but thrown in the ol’ political towel.

    Strike that; you have definitely thrown it in.

    So relax. Your vote will never, ever count.

  9. 9
    Mnemosyne says:

    When in doubt – and I hate to say this, but if you haven’t bothered to read up on the Propositions – when in doubt, just vote No on everything.

    That’s what I do in California, because I’ve been burned by the fine print buried in the 40th page of the proposition language one too many times.

    This year, I may break my rule for two props: 19, because I don’t really care about people smoking pot; and 25, which the president of the Howard Jarvis Assholes has been screaming about on my radio, which signals me to vote the opposite of whatever he wants me to vote. Whatever way the Howard Jarvis Assholes want me to vote, I vote the opposite.

  10. 10
    Desert Rat says:

    There’s an even more general rule.

    Considering the nutjobs in our state legislature, and how thoroughly corrupt Arizona’s political system is with big money, vote No barring a compelling reason to vote otherwise.

    None of the propositions this year meet that threshold, other than medical marijuana (203, IIRC).

  11. 11
    Calliope Jane says:

    @suzanne: She got to meet Goddard?! Very cool.

    Anyways, as a rule, if the Proposition in question has been sponsored by the state legislature: vote No.

    I have actually been doing this and advising others to do the same. All the Propositions this year (that I was able to vote on, anyway) were referred to the people by the legislature, except medical marijuana. And all the Props in the 100s amend the state constitution, so I always pay closer attention to those. The vote-by-mail ballets included little pamphlets on the propositions; just reading the title and descriptive paragraph alone of what the legislature is trying to do was worrying enough.

    And HEY don’t go blaming Arpaio on the whole state; he’s Maricopa County’s problem. The Pima County Sheriff (Dupnik) is good people (refused to enforce SB 1070, for example); the Santa Cruz County Sheriff isn’t too bad, either. And, yeah, he probably would win statewide, unfortunately, but luckily he confines his insanity to . . . um, the largest county in the state.

    but our political class is generally kooky. This is definitely, unfortunately true.

  12. 12
    Desert Rat says:


    Some of us were born here. Some of us have lived here our whole lives, and can’t imagine living anywhere else.

    Some of us have been fighting the good fight despite people who wrote us off. Arizona has elected two Democratic Governors in the last 25 years, each were elected to two terms. Both of them became cabinet members.

    Half of our Congressional delegation (at least for now) is Democratic. The state is changing. It’s nowhere near as conservative as it was even ten years ago. Within a decade, this will be a battleground state for the simple reason of demographics.

    I can also say, safely, that NONE of us give a shit what you think about Arizona.

  13. 13
    morzer says:

    @Desert Rat:

    Some people said the Harkonnen would always rule Dune…

  14. 14
    Yutsano says:

    @Desert Rat: Also don’t forget to note that, if it weren’t for Grandpa Walnuts, Obama had a very real chance of winning Arizona. There are very strong liberal and Democratic veins in that state, they just get overtaken by the Arapaios and the old folks getting their word in first.

  15. 15
    morzer says:


    Clinton carried AZ in 1996, and McCain only won by 9% in 2008, despite home state advantage.

  16. 16
    suzanne says:

    @JWL: Five of our eight Congresscritters are Dems, including Raul Grijalva, one of the most progressive members of Congress.

    It’s a weirder and more complex place than it appears on first blush.

  17. 17
    Martin says:

    My initiative rule for California is pretty straightforward:

    If it is legislative meta – how we elect our legislators, pay them, requirements for votes – basically anything that the legislature has a vested interest in, then its worth considering. I think all such meta issues should be settled outside of the body – these are effectively constitutional issues – and directly to the voters is appropriate.

    Everything else is the job of the legislature, and so they automatically get a No vote. We have a representative democracy for a reason.

  18. 18
    suzanne says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: Have I told you lately that I love your GBV reference?

  19. 19
    E.D. Kain says:

    Actually Arizona is awesome. I love it. It’s very diverse and far more purplish than the pols who run the joint make it out to be.

  20. 20
    chauncey1186 says:

    Totally OT but thought you all should know. Bing is “redirecting” searches for HP, Digby, Think Progress, Daily Kos and others to Martha Stewart sites, random advertisers, and porn sites. Not sure what’s going on, but I suspect foul play.

    I’ve never had this problem before and now suddenly on the eve of voting a number of progressives sites are hard to access.

  21. 21
    JWL says:

    Desert Rat: I stand corrected.

    Best of luck…

  22. 22
    Yutsano says:

    @Martin: I voted no on every single initiative we had in WA this year. Three were crap privatization schemes and the others I couldn’t totally grok so they all got negatory decisions from me. I feel pretty comfortable with that. Oh there were a couple of resolutions that had to be passed by ballot as well (quirk of WA law) that I also voted against. I never thought saying no would feel so good. Also if a seat was unopposed, regardless of party affiliation, I left that intentionally blank. I don’t believe in free passes.

  23. 23

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy: Except we did slip in a couple of Democrats, Babbitt and Mofford, this way. I voted against it.

  24. 24
    morzer says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    Purple mohawkish, even?

  25. 25
    Martin says:

    @Yutsano: In races I don’t know enough about the candidates, I always vote in favor of greater representation – I vote for women and minorities.

    It’s not a particularly sound strategy, but I truly think things would work better if everyone’s interests were being proportionately represented.

  26. 26
    Triassic Sands says:

    Initiatives in Washington State.

    Washington has a permanent, full-time, right-wing initiative writer who always has at least one initiative on the ballot, since that is how he currently makes his living. The guy’s raison d’etre is to get taxes as low as humanly possible. A less kind, but equally accurate analysis might lead one to believe that his real goal is destroy the state by making it ungovernable, and with the assistance of Washington’s own share of ignorant voters, he’s done a great job of that over the last eleven years. If the right combination of initiatives pass and fail this year, the state will be unable to even pretend to adequately fund education and the “safety net” will be virtually gone — not just inadequate, which it is already, but gone.

    This year’s offering is yet another initiative requiring a 2/3 majority in the legislature to raise taxes. Why not just require unanimity?

    There are three other initiatives that will drain state coffers — a repeal of sales tax on bottled water, soda, and candy. That seems sure to go through. Then, there are two initiatives to eliminate state liquor stores. If both pass there will be a conflict, but either one will reduce government revenues. Passage of at least one seems a virtual certainty.

    The odd-man out this year is the income tax on wealthy residents, which is publicly backed by both William Gates Sr. and his son Bill. (Other Microsoft luminaries oppose the tax.) Washington’s tax system is the MOST REGRESSIVE in the country — yep, 50th out 50, which must surprise people who expect some rightwing hellhole like Texas or a Deep South state to win that dubious distinction.

    The money raised by the first ever state income tax will go to education and health care, but passage requires the majority of residents to 1) vote for their own best interests and 2) actually vote to raise taxes. The poor and middle class in Washington already pay a much, much greater percentage of their income for Washington taxes than do the wealthy, so passage would tilt the state back toward fairness, though the rich will still be getting a good deal relative to those less well off. The primary tactic of the antis has been — no surprise here — fear mongering. “It will only be a matter of time before the legislature extends the tax to everyone.” This could be the dumbest argument in human history, because the Washington legislature (and governors) have demonstrated for the entire history of the state that they utterly lack the guts (and integrity) to establish a state-wide income tax. Why else would this tax be introduced via initiative? Still, the “people” have an almost inexhaustible capacity for stupidity, so what should be easy passage will be anything but…. Needless to say, opposition has been well-funded. Nothing would make me happier than to be wrong about my fellow citizens. I am eager to apologize for my disparaging characterizations should this initiative pass.

    The smart money, based on history, would call for the 2/3 initiative to pass, the repeal of the “junk food” sales tax, the privatization of hard liquor sales, and the failure of the income tax. That will leave the state so far in the hole, that California might begin to look good.

  27. 27
    piratedan says:

    As a resident since ’83 I can speak to the purplish nature of things. There is obviously a short term memory thing going on in AZ, in that we keep getting batshit crazy types elected or filling the governors chair, i.e. the last two elected Dem governors have been brought into presidential cabinet positions, leaving the SOS to fill in.

    The damn state is gerrymandered beyond sanity to allow the old white guys to continue to control the state house. They keep trying to draw districts safe for Rethugs, but then keep nominating guys to the right of Attilla The Hun to run for office. The SOS race is important because we have a guy who screwed up the last elections (a rethug… naturally) running against a fully decorated veteran who also happens to be a Native American and in statewide elections, Dems do surprisingly well, unless someone plays the illegal immigrant card (and his ethnicity makes that kinda moot).

    This is key because there is a low key rumor that Gov. Birdbrain is not well physically and as such, might not serve a full term. The Rethug candidates are all refusing to talk to the media and have bunkered in with the thought that as long as they don’t open their mouths, no one will know just how bad they are. A very effetive strategy here in AZ, where you don’t say anything, just attack the other guy with anonymous ads with outside money.

  28. 28

    For what it’s worth, here’s my guide to voting on Washington State’s initiatives, referenda, et al.

    Also, vote for Patty Murray.

    And even though he’s not the Buddha, if you see Tim Eyman in the road, run him over.

    and, @ Yutsano, you voted against some good stuff along with the bad. It’s your right and all, but knee-jerk naysaying is maybe less than optimal, health-of-our-democracy-wise. I do, however, agree with you about not voting for anyone running unopposed. I never do that, either.

  29. 29
    DFH no.6 says:

    An AZ resident for nigh on 30 years now, nearly half my life. In a lot of ways it’s just a great place to live (Thanksgiving in shirtsleeves in the backyard, for instance).

    Politically it’s fairly difficult for a liberal (more so in Phoenix than Tucson) but it’s not impossible.

    The state legislature is significantly to the right of the population, though overall the population is in fact still majority rightwing (as Kain says, we’re rather “purplish”, though certainly more red than blue).

    Still, the SB1070 horror (and Joe Arpaio) notwithstanding, we’re not the fucking Confederacy. In a broad political sense, we’re really not that different from, say, contemporary Ohio or Pennsylvania.

    The large and growing Hispanic population will move us more Democratic, though only gradually, and if I’m lucky to live longer than my Dad and both grandpas did, then I expect by that time (20 years or so) AZ will more closely resemble politically our fine neighbors in New Mexico, only with 4 times the population.

    Right now 5 of our 8 congresscritters (Representatives) are in fact Dems, but that won’t, unfortunately, last past this Tuesday. Numbers will probably flip the other way.

    My own Rep, Harry Mitchell, is one of those rare actually-decent Blue Dogs (bravely voted for HCR), and he tossed the execrable JD Hayworth back in ’06.

    Harry’s in a very tight race in which he’d probably be up by a few points if his opponent was a teabagger instead of a non-scary seeming old fashioned Chamber of Commerce-type Republican. Where’s the Tea Party when you really need them, you know?

  30. 30
    mai naem says:

    @JWL: Late to the party but Arizona had Janet Napolitano, Rose Mofford and Bruce Babbitt. We also had Carl Hayden and Mo Udall and also too, scumball Dennis Deconcini. Clinton carried AZ in 96 and I believe may have in 92 if not for Perot. We may not be NY but we certainly aren’t Idaho or Wyoming.

  31. 31
    caune says:

    @Gold Star for Robot Boy:

    A Lt. Governor would be a good thing to have here but that proposition screws it up something royal by connecting the Gov and Lt Gov in the election process. Hell if I want a D as a Gov and an Independent as Lt. Gov that should be my prerogative.

  32. 32
    Dennis SGMM says:


    That’s what I do in California, because I’ve been burned by the fine print buried in the 40th page of the proposition language one too many times.

    Too true. I always read the Legislative Analyst’s summary and the arguments for and against that are printed in the Election Guide – and then I usually vote “No” anyway. My only exceptions this go-round are the same as yours: Prop 19 and Prop 25.

    The Initiative process here in California started out as a Good Thing, a way to get around the Legislature which at the time was controlled by the railroads. Over the years it’s become largely the province of those well-funded special interests who can pay hordes of signature gatherers to get the thing on the ballot so that they can advertise the shit out of it.

    If I recall correctly, there was a move to ban paid signature gathering but, that one died and so you have outcomes like Prop 23, funded by out-of-state energy companies, and last cycle’s Prop 8, funded largely by the Mormon church.

  33. 33
    JCT says:

    You AZ folk are making me feel better, have a big job offer brewing there and the MSM portrayal of the state as a hotbed for far-right semi-rascists was really dampening my enthusiasm.

  34. 34
    Cacti says:


    Clinton carried AZ in 1996, and McCain only won by 9% in 2008, despite home state advantage.

    Obama taking Janet Napolitano away from us has sent the state into wingnut hell.

    It’s the one move of his Presidency that I’m truly disappointed with as there was no redeeming feature to leaving us at the mercy of Jan Brewer and Russell Pearce.

  35. 35
    Ahasuerus says:

    @MattR: I believe that voting “yes” on the NJ ballot question is the proper thing to do. It’s somewhat appalling that we need a constitutional amendment to make the legislature behave, but the arguments for passage outweigh the arguments against. I found that the League of Women Voters analysis was especially cogent.

  36. 36
    walt says:

    Jon Talton, a business writer for The Seattle Times, is far and away the best observer of Arizona politics online http://roguecolumnist.typepad.com/rogue_columnist/. He’s also frankly pessimistic that Arizona can ever recover from its devastating reliance on real estate to ever become a fully functional political entity. The low-end economy coupled with white rage means Arizona is very vulnerable to Joe Arpaios, Russell Pearces, Jan Brewers and other sawdust evangelists of the culture war. Demographics are not on our side here. We’re getting older, dumber, whiter, and meaner.

  37. 37
    IronyAbounds says:

    @E.D. Kain:

    yes, it’s far more purple then it seems, but that’s of little solace when the state legislature is controlled by the wingnut consortium of the East Valley Mormons and the rural county rednecks. The legislature has a hatred of public education, but a love of incarcerating people at an alarming rate, so we are spending more and more money to jail people and less and less to educate them. I’ve lived in Arizona for 46 years and all of my adult life. If I didn’t need to earn a living, I’d be out of here in a nanosecond.

  38. 38
    E.D. Kain says:

    @morzer: Hot pink with orange streaks.

  39. 39

    My brother, who’s a conservative, went through and voted on the AZ propositions on the basis of whether they were likely to get the state sued. He figured most of them would, and they’ve already wasted enough time and money on lawsuits.

  40. 40
    Cheri says:

    I’ve lived in this god forsaken state for just over 10 years..Sometimes I shake my head and wonder what the hell I was thinking moving our family here from Connecticut. But we ARE here now….since I live in Maricopa County, I can truthfully say, this is the land of crazy. Republican heaven. These folks are either very wealthy, or they’re batcrap crazy…will ALWAYS vote against their own best interests, just to vote for a Republican. Liberals are akin to stuff on the bottom of your shoes..I have been verbally threatened when commenting on local news sites here…as in wanting to kill all “my kind”. That’s what you get when education isn’t high on the priority list. To the person that was pondering moving out here for a job…think LONG and HARD! Especially if you have children…see the comment about education? I wasn’t kidding.The corruption in politics here must be unsurpassed. If I notice, then it HAS to be blatant.It happens on a daily basis. The legislature is nothing but a collection of old,bigotted white guys that know their days are numbered with the influx of hispanic voters..they aim to inflict as much fear and damage in their remaining time as possible. There are notable exceptions, of course. Eric Meyer, Kristin Syneima (sp)and possibly a few others.Most are Russell Pierce kind of guys, and that doesn’t sit well with many of us here…they don’t even TRY to hide their racist views.I have found my friends here to be delightful though, and my work is satisfying…you tend to find others that have the same points of view as you do…the rest is just incredibly frustating, because we really WANT so much for this beautiful state to come into the 21st century.I keep the good fight going, as do all liberals/progressives here…you need tough skin and an iron resolve…if you have those, come on out. We could use some reenforcements! Did I mention the non existent gun laws? This IS the Wild West….

  41. 41
    Cacti says:


    I prefer Stephen Lemons of the New Times, aka the Feathered Bastard.

  42. 42
    Cheri says:

    Cacti…Absolutely!! New Times is great…best investigative site around here:)

  43. 43
    piratedan says:

    as for AZ Political commentary, I would also offer up these folks…..


    There is a very vibrant dem/progressive “underground” here and the Rethugs are doing the best that they can at killing it via the defunding of education, at virtually every level.

  44. 44
    Cliff says:

    Huh, I didn’t realize Kaine was an Arizonan for some reason.

    I work in Tempe, and I’m surrounded by god damn Teabaggers, most of whom either have diabetes or on the express train to Dialysis Town.

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