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Guest opinion

Prezelski: Finchem's election 'hearing' was performative bunk

Arizona State Rep. Mark Finchem's "unofficial hearing" about alleged election irregularities is not going to lead to the overturning of the November results. This was not the intention.

It has been pointed out that any action in this regard would require that the Legislature be called into special session, which is unlikely to happen because neither the governor nor the leadership in the Legislature have expressed any enthusiasm for doing so. In fact, Gov. Doug Ducey rejected the idea on Wednesday. "The Legislature will open up on January 13," he said. "I'll see the Legislature in January."

This is to say nothing for the fact that it would be difficult to rustle up a quorum if a session was called. Getting at least 31 Republican representatives and 16 Republican senators to abruptly drop everything, including their regular jobs and family plans, to show up at the Capitol to get something done before December 8 seems a bit daunting.

Of course a special session would not guarantee the results that Finchem wants. The Legislature cannot simply move to assign electors, call for a show of hands, and go home. There are laws in place that would need to be repealed and new ones would have to be passed. Under the state Constitution, this process has to take place over the course of at least three days. Oh, sure, there are ways around this, but these all would require the consent of minority Democrats, and this is unlikely to happen. To be effective, the law would also has to be passed with an emergency clause, which, requires a two-thirds vote in both chambers, something that cannot happen unless Democrats can be convinced to go along. Again, all this still has to be finished before December 8, and any law they pass would have to be retroactive, which is probably unconstitutional.

It's not going to happen.

Finchem is either ignorant of the legislative process, or he is pursuing this issue knowing that the whole affair is performative bunk.

Given that Finchem just got elected to his fourth term and has served as a committee chair, it is pretty clear that the former is not the case, so it seems that he did all this knowing that it would lead to naught.

It is another example of a particular strain of Republicanism that holds that making bold, empty, rhetorical demonstrations in the name of "conservative principles" is far more important than passing legislation that addresses real problems.

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To Speaker Bowers' credit, Finchem's was not given permission to stage his phony "hearing" at the Capitol, so it was held off-campus and at least we can say that state resources were not wasted in pursuing this exercise.

However, it says a lot that Finchem and those that participated in this thing thought that it was more worthy of their time and effort than dealing with the current public health crisis.

Of course, all this gnashing of teeth and rending of garments over the results of the election is not meant to actually address any real issues regarding voting.

Republicans have always questioned the results of elections, usually not so boldly or directly, but simply by allowing implications of irregularities, usually among non-white communities, to be validated by a nod and a wink.

Tales of mobs of Sonorans getting bused across the border to vote for Democrats, ballot-stuffing in reservation communities, and even the implication that some of our elected officials are secretly foreigners, have long been a staple of talk-radio and Internet rumor-mongering.

That these fanciful and unsubstantiated anecdotes have provided a raison d'être for legislation aimed at suppressing the vote, namely Prop. 200 back in 2004 and the 2016 law aimed at preventing organized vote-by-mail activities, is a bad result in and of itself, but this rhetoric has another, more pernicious, effect, namely that it is aimed at undermining the legitimacy of elected Democrats by implying that they are only in office through some kind of subterfuge.

It is an insulting implication, not only to those Democratic officials, but also to their constituents.

It is also, with all due respect, a lie, and people like Finchem know that.

For decades, Republicans have regarded Arizona as their personal property, and have regarded their political dominance as somehow divinely ordained.

This so-called "hearing" was by no means official, but instead it was a tantrum on the part of group of legislators who recognize the results of recent elections as a direct challenge to their notions of who we are as a state, and to the cherished sense of entitlement that comes with one-party rule.

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We can expect to see more such fits of outrage in the future, whether they are effective or not.

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Finchem in 2017.

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