The United States Constitution explicitly expresses that citizens have a fundamental right to vote. Not only is it clearly written in the document, but the notion is expressed five times in four separate amendments. It is the single right that appears the most often within the Constitution’s text.
In the state of Arizona, however, things are different for many citizens. Under state law, one-time lawbreakers automatically lose their right to vote until they have completed their sentence and paid all fines and restitution. For many former felons, paying off these fines can be more difficult than any other part of their reintegration into society.
The situation becomes even worse for repeat offenders, who must wait two years to apply for restoration to the county court that sentenced them. Even after completing their sentence, parole and probation time, and paying all fines and restitution, it’s up to a judge to accept or deny their request to be eligible to vote again. There have been multiple efforts by senators to change these laws, but they have been quickly shut down before the state senate can even vote on them. This means many Arizonans who have served their time and whose daily lives are affected by elected officials, have no say in who governs them.
Meanwhile, another Arizona convict not only gets to vote but as of this week is running for a United States senate seat. There is a deep level of twisted irony that cannot be overlooked. Michele Keller, who has been out of prison for over a decade and rebuilt her life from the ground up, still cannot vote because of the massive fines that she is still struggling to pay off. Joe Arpaio, who has a long history of abusing prisoners and unfairly targeting minorities, gets to skip out on serving his sentence and pursue higher office.
Arpaio is a convicted criminal. This is not an opinion, but a fact. A federal judge decided that he was guilty of contempt of court and he might be in one of his own prisons right now, if not for Trump’s controversial pardon of him. The only thing worse than this reprehensible situation will be the GOP’s ultimate response to it. If Arpaio can win the primary, it only seems logical that President Trump and his fellow Republicans will support and finance his campaign. After all, they had no problem backing accused child molester Roy Moore in Alabama a month ago.
Just like Roy Moore, the only way to stop these Steve Bannon darlings from taking over D.C. is through the polls. If a Democrat can win in Alabama, one can surely win in Arizona. Trump may have helped Arpaio get away with his crimes, but Americans and Arizonans in particular must fight hard to ensure that he does not get promoted for them.
Photo: Peter Yang