It’s election season. And, that means we are all bombarded with information. To be sure, there is much to decide–everything from candidates for public office (federal, state, local), to judges (in the three most populous counties the vote is whether judges should be retained in office), to ballot propositions (laws and ordinances proposed for direct adoption by the voters). 

There’s a lot at stake. How do you plan to cast an informed vote? 

One tool we recommend highly is www.azvoterguide.com. Our friends at Center for Arizona Policy have surveyed the candidates on a variety of important issues. You can review candidate responses–or, if they elected not to respond, you can view their public position. The website allows you to customize a voter guide for you, focusing on the local candidates and issues that appear on your ballot.

The guide may not answer every question you have, but it is a very good starting point for your own research. Here are a couple of specific thoughts:

Judges: One of the most asked questions is: “How do I find out information about the judges that appear on the ballot?” Judges play an important, and often controversial, role in public life–but they do so in a way that is fundamentally different from elected lawmakers. Unlike elected officials, judges are forbidden from taking public positions on issues that are likely to come before them as they decide cases. This is the reason why this week Judge Amy Coney Barrett–as every nominee to the Supreme Court of the United States before her–declined to answer questions about her specific position on issues, yet readily answered questions about her judicial philosophy. When you look at the responses from judges to the survey at azvoterguide.com, you will see that many judges did not respond. Other judges responded with a statement of their judicial philosophy. 

There is also a system for rating the performance and competence of judges in Arizona called the Judicial Performance Review Commission, which relies on surveys from attorneys and litigants who have appeared before the judge being evaluated. Learning of a judge’s approach and temperament is challenging, even for attorneys, so every piece of information you can glean is valuable. 

It’s not a perfect system. At the end of the day, there is no reason to cast an uninformed vote on judges. If you are unable to locate information that satisfies you that a judge should be retained in office you can simply not cast a vote for or against that judge.

Ballot Propositions: This year there are two statewide ballot propositions on the ballot: Proposition 207 (legalizing recreational marijuana) and Proposition 208 (new taxes for increased public education spending). In the voter guide you will see that our friends at CAP are urging a “no” vote on both measures. 

Our Take: No on 207: The AFHE Board has decided to also recommend a no vote on 207. This is the second time in four years that legalizing recreational marijuana has been on the ballot in Arizona. Arizona voters said no to legalization in 2018 (by contrast, medicinal use of marijuana was approved by the voters in 2010). Like it was in 2018, the effort to legalize recreational marijuana is overwhelmingly funded by marijuana dispensaries. 

AFHE exists to support home education because children are important. They are so important that parents make tremendous sacrifices to give their child the best education at home they possibly can. Ultimately, we are not persuaded that legalizing recreational marijuana use in Arizona will help children in any way. And there are many ways that it could be harmful. Take these examples:

  • In the states that have legalized marijuana, use by people younger than 21 has risen dramatically.
  • The human brain is still developing until the early-to-middle twenties and marijuana use has been shown to stunt and impair that development.
  • Prop. 207 would decrease the penalties for underage use of recreational marijuana, sending the message that it is not a big deal and fueling a culture of underage use.
  • Prop. 207 places strict limits on law enforcement’s ability to stop impaired driving.
  • Many neighborhoods will have a surge in marijuana growing, because HOA’s will no longer be permitted to place restrictions on marijuana home growth.
  • In other states, recreational marijuana has adversely impacted the availability of marijuana for medical reasons such as chronic pain.

As a final matter, Prop. 207  will take away the ability of lawmakers to make changes to its provisions–even for emergent priorities like public safety, public health, or financial downturns. This problematic feature of our state Constitution that hamstrings the ability of our elected representatives to respond to our needs is known as “voter protection.” Voter protection is a good reason to be wary of any law proposed at the ballot. 

For more information on what is at stake in the vote on Prop. 207 please visit www.no207az.com. However you come down on this issue, and on the other decisions on the ballot in 2020, we wish you the best as you exercise the wonderful privilege of voting, and demonstrate civic engagement and responsibility to the young learners in your home.

Peter Gentala
Board President

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