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Arizona Senate votes to block you from replacing McCain if vacancy occurs.  Updated 7:51 a.m. MT April 19, 2018

Laurie Roberts: Republican legislators want to block voters from selecting Sen. John McCain’s replacement this year, should he leave office in the next six weeks.

Once again, the Arizona Legislature is proving that it doesn’t trust you.

Earlier this session, our leaders trotted out a doomed proposal that would strip voters of the right to nominate candidates for the U.S. Senate in the primary election. This time, our leaders don’t trust you to decide who should represent you in the Senate, should Sen. John McCain leave office in the next six weeks.

McCain is suffering from a brutal brain cancer and his failing health apparently constitutes an emergency at the state Capitol, where politics trump common decency or class.

Brazen political move

On Tuesday, the Republican-led Senate gave preliminary approval to an immediate change in state law for how to fill a U.S. Senate vacancy. This, so that should McCain leave office in coming weeks, Gov. Doug Ducey would select who would represent us for the next two and one-half years.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office’s, if McCain left office by May 31, Ducey would appoint a temporary replacement and Arizona voters would choose their next senator in November. If the office became vacant on June 1 or thereafter, Ducey’s appointee would serve until the seat went onto the ballot in 2020. (Note: there is some dispute about the date. While the Secretary of State’s Office puts the deadline at May 31, elections lawyer Joe Kanefield notes that ARS16-202 requires the ballot to be finalized 120 days before the primary election, which would put the date by which a vacancy must occur at April 30.)

The proposed change in law would require the seat to become vacant 150 days before the primary in order to hold an election. This year, that deadline would have been March 31.

The proposal to already was a part of House Bill 2538, a bill originally intended to lengthen future special congressional campaigns after Trent Franks’ free fall and the scramble to replace him. The Associated Press’ Bob Christie reports that Democrats amended the bill in the House to similarly lengthen future Senate campaigns.

But on Tuesday, state Sen. Sonny Borrelli, R-Kingman, proposed adding an emergency clause to the bill, meaning it would take effect immediately rather than later this summer.

Democrats will block the move

Borrelli told his colleagues it’s important to “be prepared” and apparently Republicans agreed because they gave it a preliminary thumbs up on a voice vote. The bill still requires a formal Senate vote before returning to the House but I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for this particular end run on voters to occur.

An emergency clause requires a two-thirds vote of each chamber. Democrats, already seeing the distinct possibility of Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema snagging the open seat left by Sen. Jeff Flake’s decision not to seek re-election, want a shot at McCain’s seat as well, should it become vacant.

Meanwhile, Republicans want to make sure it remains in their hands. Which means they want the choice of who will represent Arizona for the next two and one-half years in Ducey’s hands.

Read: not yours.

Reach Roberts at laurie.roberts@arizonarepublic.com.