Arizona Senate Passes New Requirements For Voter Initiatives

By Tom Maxedon
Howard Fischer, Capitol Media Services
Published: Monday, May 27, 2019 - 7:42am
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Julie Levin/KJZZ
Arizona State Senate building.

Rejecting complaints from Democrats, Arizona Senate Republicans voted late Friday to add a series of new requirements that have to be met by people proposing their own laws and constitutional amendments.

Some of the changes are procedural, such as saying that paid and out-of-state petition circulators cannot gather signatures until they register with the Secretary of State's Office. And registration is prohibited for anyone who has been convicted of fraud, forgery, identity theft, or has been a convicted of any felony and not has his or her civil rights restored.

But Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Glendale, said the real goal of SB 1451 is to set up a system that allows otherwise valid petitions to be disqualified for technical reasons.

He said that's being done intentionally by those opposed to the kind of ideas pushed by voters after they could not get the Legislature to consider their pleas. More to the point, Quezada said it allows foes of these ballot measures to quash the proposals before voters get their chance to weigh in. "This allows them to go to court and sue to knock off groups of signatures,'' he said.

They can do that, Quezada said, because Senate Bill 1451 sets up traps.

For example, he said that means that forgetting to include a circulator's registration number on a petition sheet would invalidate all the signature on that sheet, even if the person actually was qualified to circulate the petition and even if the petition was filled in with all the necessary information and all those who signed provided all the necessary information.

What's worse, said Quezada, is that a previously approved change in law requiring "strict compliance'' with all election laws means that a single stray mark on a petition could invalidate the signatures of all 15 people who signed it. "This is a cowardly approach to furthering a political agenda,'' he said. "Instead of fighting for those issues based on merits of those issues at the ballot we are instead finding ways to throw these petitions off the ballot ... for purely technical reasons.''

The 16-10 vote sends the measure back to the House to approve some last-minute technical changes.

A federal judge blocked on Friday President Donald Trump from building sections of his long-sought border wall with money secured under his declaration of a national emergency.

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