Arizona Campaign Transparency And Clean Energy Initiatives In Jeopardy

By Holliday Moore
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - 11:38am
Updated: Tuesday, August 21, 2018 - 12:08pm

The decision to void hundreds of thousands of petition signatures needed to put questions on the upcoming ballot now rests on a Maricopa County Superior Court judge's shoulders.

Judge Teresa Sanders could invoke a 2014 law that placed tougher restrictions on voter initiatives trying to make the ballot.

In both cases, petitioners who collected signatures were subpoenaed to testify in court this week.

Attorney Kim Demarchi with the Outlaw Dirty Money initiative said those restrictions were motivated by business owners angered over voters' increasing Arizona's minimum wage and now those businesses want to curtail future public initiatives.

She has argued that the restrictions are unfairly stacked against voters who want to bypass special interests.

"It's significantly easier to run to be a member of the Legislature [and] kick off someone who's trying to challenge you for that office," Demarchi complained.

And, likewise, she said it's far easier, "to file a lawsuit to kick off an initiative than it is to keep an initiative on the ballot."

Judge Sanders also heard arguments from attorney Kory Langhofer representing the group in support of subpoenaing more than a dozen petitions who collected signatures for the campaign transparency initiative.

He is demanding Judge Sanders automatically disqualify 225,963 validated signatures, which he says were collected by suspected felons who did not showing up to testify in court Monday.

"If you're going to put something on the ballot, you've got to keep your circulators around to answer questions about whether they're felons, about whether they fill out the registration paperwork properly," Langhofer said.

Demarchi asked Sanders to consider demands that the court automatically disqualify petitions an unconstitutional infringement on the judge's right to interpret the law.

"What the Legislature has said," Demarchi explained, "is the court is no longer able to make a determination whether there's competent evidence regarding the issue in question. We're just going to strike all subpoenas."

Sander's decision in this trial, could set precedence for a similar challenge in court this week by Arizona Public Service against a renewable energy initiative.

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