PHOENIX — Gov. Doug Ducey said Thursday his decision on whether to sign some controversial voting bills won’t be swayed by fears of losing the 2023 Super Bowl.
And he took a slap at Major League Baseball for its decision to yank the All-Star Game out of Georgia following enactment of its own new voter laws.
“I’m going to sign good policy,’’ the governor said when asked about the possibility of repercussions from laws that some have said will interfere with the right of Arizonans to vote. Among those groups is Greater Phoenix Leadership which sent an open letter to state lawmakers saying that three specific proposal “seek to disenfranchise voters.’’
“They are ‘solutions’ in search of a problem,’’ wrote members of the organization. “They are attempts at voter suppression cloaked as reform — plain and simple.’’
What makes that letter significant and relevant to the Georgia situation is that one of the signers is Michael Bidwill, owner of the Arizona Cardinals. And as an owner he would have some say in any decision by the National Football League about whether to move the 2023 event elsewhere.
It’s not just the Super Bowl that is at stake. Arizona also is in line to host the NCAA Men’s Final Four in 2024 and the Women’s Final Four two years later.
And the NCAA has shown before it is willing to use its leverage to address political situations, as it did in 2016 when it disqualified North Carolina from hosting championship events after approval of legislation requiring transgender people to use bathrooms matching the sex on their birth certificate rather than their gender identity. The punishment was reversed the following year when the legislature repealed the law.
Ducey made it clear on Thursday that he thinks sports teams and their associations should stick to what they know.
“I think Major League Baseball made a big mistake,’’ he said.
“I’d like to keep politics out of baseball,’’ the governor continued. “That’s how I’d prefer it.’’
And what about how it affects his own decisions?
“I’m going to sign good policy, OK?’’ Ducey said.
“I report to the people of Arizona and not a major sports league,’’ he continued. “And I’m going to make decisions on the policies that are put in front of me.’’
The letter from GPL singles out three measures its members find objectionable:
- SB 1485 would remove people from what is now called the “permanent early voting list’’ if they do not use their early ballots at all in two consecutive primary and general elections. People would remain eligible to vote, but would have to go to the polls.
- SB 1593 prohibiting the counting of any early postmarked later than the Thursday before the election, regardless of whether it actually arrived by Election Day. It also would reduce the number of days someone might have an early ballot by five.
- SB 1713 requiring someone who wants to vote early to include a separate affidavit with a date of birth or a voter ID number.
“These proposals are a concerted effort from those in Arizona — and across the nation — who wish to sow additional doubts about our elections in the minds of voters, and feed into the paranoia that has plagued our political discourse over the past several months,’’ the GPL letter reads. “Disturbingly, each of these proposals have one thing in common: making it more difficult for Arizonans to vote.’’
SB 1485 and 1713 already have been approved by the Senate and await House floor debate; SB 1593 has yet to be debated in the Senate.
The writers dismiss claims by proponents that these are common-sense measures designed to promote election security and voter confidence.
“Arizonans already have confidence in the integrity of our elections and, by and large, find it easy to vote,’’ they wrote.
Ducey appeared to agree, noting that he signed the canvass on Nov. 30 formally certifying the election results.
“All 15 of our counties certified the results,’’ he said. “They were audited. The votes were tabulated and determined to be accurate.’’
Still, the governor said, the Senate is “a co-equal branch of government’’ and is free to pursue whatever changes it wants in election laws.
Ducey sidestepped questions about whether he thinks the measures are bad policy that he would veto. And he suggested that any final decision will be based on what finally survives the legislative process.
“It’s very, very rare ... that a bill as presented is the bill that arrives, if it is successful,’’ the governor said. Ducey said it’s all part of the process where lawmakers provide their input as a measure goes from introduced version to what is finally approved by both chambers.
“And then I do have a role as the executive of whether I would determine it to be good policy,’’ he said.
Ducey’s belief that he wants to “keep politics out of baseball’’ apparently does not work both ways.
In 2017 the governor criticized athletes to “take a knee’’ during the Star-Spangled Banner.
”I think that during the national anthem you whould stand up, pay respect and reflect over those that have sacrified for this country,’’ Ducey said at the time. “I don’t think the anthem is a time for activism.
The comments came as what started as a lone protest by Colin Kaepernick over racial injustice spread to other National Football League players.
The governor did not dispute that there are many Black players — and many individuals of all races — who believe that there is racism in this country. But he said kneeling during the anthem is not the way to draw attention to the issue.
”I think there is a lot of attention on those subjects already,’’ he said.