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GOP Legislators squash colleague's plan to push electoral votes to Donald Trump

Capitol Media Services
Rep. Rachel Jones

A plan by a first-term Tucson lawmaker to have Arizona give its 11 electoral votes to Donald Trump even before the November election has blown up as even some Republican colleagues found it unacceptable.

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services

PHOENIX -- A plan by a first-term Tucson lawmaker to have Arizona give its 11 electoral votes to Donald Trump even before the November election has blown up as even some Republican colleagues found it unacceptable.

Rep. Barbara Parker, R-Mesa, who chairs the House Committee on Municipal Oversight and Elections, adjourned a meeting late Wednesday without taking a vote on HCR 2055 after it became obvious that it would not be approved. That is because two GOP lawmakers on the panel questioned both the legality and the political wisdom of scrapping the system used here since statehood of letting voters choose who they want for president in favor of giving that power to the Republican-controlled Legislature.

And with all Democrats opposed, that left the proposal by Rep. Rachel Jones without the votes.

Strictly speaking, HCR 2055 as crafted by Jones would not have appointed the electors, at least not yet. Instead, her proposal urged Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs to sign bills on the wish list of Republicans who insist the 2020 and 2022 elections were stolen, including scrapping early voting and having all ballots cast by and counted by hand.

Only if she refused would the Republican lawmakers pull the trigger and award the electoral votes to the Republican nominee, presumably Trump.

Jones claimed that 80% of Republicans and 30% of Democrats don't trust elections.

``A lot of laws were broken with the way that rules were changed in the 11th hour before the election,'' she told colleagues on the House Committee on Municipal Oversight and Elections.

``So you could say it was illegally administered and there was just maladministration minimally,'' Jones said of the 2020 election. ``And that was also true of the 2022 election.''

What Jones did not say is that challenges to both elections by losers all have been dismissed by judges, though Kari Lake and Abe Hamadeh, the unsuccessful GOP candidates for governor and attorney general, continue to appeal.

Jones is relying on a reading of the U.S. Constitution which says the Legislature has ``full plenary authority over presidential elections.'' And that, she said, entitles lawmakers to act.

Republican Josh Barnett, who lost his own 2022 bid for Congress, told lawmakers they have an obligation to act.

``Where we are today, at this point, can you guarantee the people that you represent that the 2024 presidential election will be legally run and administered according to law?'' he asked. ``If you cannot guarantee that, then we are asking you to appoint the presidential electors right now via a resolution.''

And he said naming the electors to cast their votes for Trump is politically justified.
Barnett noted that Republicans hold a one-vote majority in both the House and Senate.

``The majority of Arizonans have voted for a conservative agenda based off of that,'' he said. ``And if Katie Hobbs does not want the 11 electors to be assigned to the Republican primary winner, then sign the election bill that we want.''

Rep. Alexander Kolodin, R-Scottsdale, said he agrees that state lawmakers do have the authority under the U.S. Constitution to appoint electors.

But Kolodin, who also is an attorney -- and has represented GOP interests in election cases -- said the U.S. Supreme Court has said that authority exists only to the extend that Arizona follows the procedures in its own constitution for enacting legislation.

And what that means, he said, is scrapping the current procedure where the popular vote determines who gets the electors in favor of letting lawmakers do that requires a measure that either is approved by the governor or the people in a popular vote.

``This resolution, it doesn't follow those procedures,'' Kolodin said, but is simply a vote by the Legislature. And that, he said, means it can't be effective given the Supreme Court precedent.

Even if the courts bought the argument that lawmakers can wrest the power to choose electors back from voters, Kolodin said there's a political consideration to all of this.

``Wouldn't we be guilty of exactly what we accuse the other side of doing, stealing an election?'' he asked.

``We would literally be saying we're going to pre-appoint the nominees to our party's electors without actually running an election,'' Kolodin said. ``Wouldn't that be just as bad as what we imagine what they might be doing?''

Barnett argued that lawmakers would be protected.

``The last two elections have been illegally run,'' he said.

``You're protecting the vote,'' Barnett said. ``Because the ultimate goal of this is to have the governor sign an election bill that we've been pushing for.''

The claims about the legislative authority drew additional questions from Rep. Justin Heap, R-Mesa, who also is an attorney.

``Then why even have an election at all?'' he asked, saying having to have an actual vote could be avoided by having every state legislature just choose which electors to send to Washington.

``We don't have to,'' Barnett responded. And he said that would work just fine for Republicans, saying that the states where the GOP controls the legislature also controls 308 electors -- far more than the 270 needed to win.

Heap, like Kolodin said there are political considerations.

He said if lawmakers were to approve Jones' measure -- and it were upheld -- the state's electoral votes would go to Trump.

But Heap noted that's not the only office on the 2024 ballot. He said Democrats could ``get their fondest wish'' and take control of the Legislature, ``which I can guarantee you will happen if we do this, by the way.''

And he asked Barnett if he's OK, what with the precedent that Jones' measure would set, with the possibility that a Democrat-controlled Legislature would pick the electors for the 2028 presidential race.

Barnett was unfazed.

``Technically, I believe that's what happened in 2020,'' he responded, even though Republicans controlled the state House, Senate and the governor's office that year.

On X and Threads: @azcapmedia

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