The passage of SB 1062 by the Arizona legislature and subsequent veto by Governor Brewer drew national attention. But there’s one aspect of the incident that has gone largely overlooked…the fact that the legislation was not written by an Arizona legislator. It was written by a national stink tank, Alliance Defending Freedom and pushed by the ultra-right wing Center for Arizona Policy. In fact, most state legislation is no longer authored by legislators. The bills are written by lawyers working for the American Legislative Exchange Council, the State Policy Network, lobbyists for large corporations, the National Rifle Association and other conservative stink tanks.
Is it any wonder, then, that our Congress and our legislatures don’t seem to represent the will of the people?
The system of state legislators and congressmen sponsoring bills written by outsiders gives the illusion of representation. But the bills are written for the benefit of a few and to push a narrow ideology. They seldom benefit the majority. For example, the Iowa House recently passed a bill to legalize silencers for guns. How many Iowans will that benefit? The Ohio legislature passed a bill limiting voting hours. How many voters will that benefit? Other states have passed strict voter ID laws despite a lack of in-person voter fraud. The result will be to prevent many of the poor and the elderly from voting. Who will that benefit?
As a result of gerrymandering, issues with voter registration and the dark money used for campaign finance, a study by the non-partisan Electoral Integrity Project as reported by The Washington Post now ranks the US 26th in the world for electoral integrity and worst of all Western nations. And the situation will only get worse if Republicans and their stink tanks continue to push bills intended to rig elections.
How do we stop this blatant takeover of our democracy? Here’s an idea: Let’s ask candidates to reject any bills written by outsiders. Let’s demand that they solve problems for the majority of their constituents. Let’s treat all bills designed to limit civil rights with the same outrage as that for SB 1062. Let’s threaten to boycott states that pass such laws. Let’s refuse to do business with corporations that have co-opted our democracy.
Let’s make our votes count while we still have them.