A simple change in the law is needed for citizens initiatives, referendums and recalls

Arizona revised its election laws a few years ago to create the E-Qual system which allows a voter to sign a candidate’s petition and to donate Clean Elections $5 contributions online:

With E-Qual, you can show your support for a candidate from the comfort of your home or anywhere internet access is available.

In Arizona, candidates are required to obtain a minimum number of petition signatures to appear on a ballot. Voters interested in assisting Statewide and Legislative candidates can now sign a petition electronically.

Clean Elections candidates are required to obtain $5 qualifying contributions from registered voters to qualify for public funding. Voters may now contribute a $5 qualifying contribution with E-Qual.

Click on a box below to get started now!


Do you know what E-Qual does not allow a voter to do? Sign petitions for citizens initiatives, referendums and recalls.

“Why” you ask? Because our authoritarian Tea-Publican legislature really does not want the citizens of this state exercising their constitutionally guaranteed right to citizens initiatives, referendums and recalls. They want to make it as difficult and costly as possible to deter voters from exercising their constitutional rights, because it is a direct challenge to their legislative authority and control.

Referring measures to the ballot is the exclusive provenance of our Tea-Publican controlled legislature and their right-wing allies, dontcha know?

The obstacles and impediments erected by our Tea-Publican controlled legislature for citizens initiatives are why two citizens initiatives were challenged in court, i.e.,  The Hospital Executive Compensation Act, and The Fair Wages and Healthy Families Act.

The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, Under new law, fate of initiatives depends on whether circulators show up in court:

A provision in an elections bill, adopted by near unanimous votes in 2014, requires a judge to invalidate the signatures of all circulators who register with the Secretary of State’s Office, are properly subpoenaed and fail to appear at trial to address legal challenges to their signature-gathering efforts.

The law, adopted as an amendment pushed by then-Sen. Michele Reagan to HB2107, places the burden on circulators and the committee they work for to ensure that circulators come back to Arizona and appear in Maricopa County Superior Court, where legal challenges to statewide ballot initiatives are heard. But many of the circulators are nomadic, traveling each election cycle to seek work for the latest initiative or candidate in need of signatures.

Simply failing to appear can put hundreds or thousands of signatures at stake, and could prove fatal for citizen initiatives – Arizona’s method for voters to bypass the Legislature and adopt laws.

It may have already proved costly for an initiative to cap the pay of hospital executives. Backers of the Hospital Executive Compensation Act pulled the plug on Aug. 15, the night before they were due in court to defend themselves against a legal challenge to their petitions led by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry. Lawyers for the chamber subpoenaed 130 circulators to appear at trial on August 16, arguing that they weren’t legally allowed to gather signatures.

A spokesman for SEIU-United Healthcare Workers West said the union’s money is better spent elsewhere than on a costly legal challenge to their initiative.

Subpoenas could aid efforts to keep the minimum wage initiative off the ballot as well. Backers are asking voters to approve a hike in minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 and require paid leave. Attorneys challenging the initiative on behalf of the Arizona Restaurant Association tried to subpoena 170 circulators who gathered signatures for the ballot measure. Though a judge quashed over 80 of those subpoenas, dozens were forced to sit in a courtroom lobby and jury rooms all day on August 11, waiting to be called or get word that they were allowed to leave.

The legal strategy has already proven valuable for the restaurant association. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joshua Rogers invalidated roughly 50,000 signatures that day in court, according to a press release from the Arizona Healthy Working Families initiative. That leaves the committee with roughly 189,000 signatures – and that’s before accounting for signatures yet to be declared invalid by the judge, as well as signatures invalidated by county elections officials. They are now scouring samples of petitions to determine how many signatures must be deducted from the total. It takes at least 150,642 valid signatures of registered voters to get a measure on the ballot.

In past election cycles, those challenging citizen initiatives relied heavily on invalidations by counties in the hopes that circulators failed to gather the signatures necessary to get initiatives on the ballot. But with the provision adopted in HB2107, the law has been tipped in favor of the plaintiffs challenging citizen initiatives in these cases.

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Given the way the law is written – that a judge must invalidate a circulator’s petitions if they’re properly served but fail to appear – it’s in the best interest of challengers to subpoena as many circulators as possible, attorney Jim Barton concluded.

“It seems like it. That seems to be what we’ve learned from this cycle,” Barton said.

This problem with petition circulators could easily be resolved by permitting citizens initiatives, referendums and recalls to collect signatures through the E-Qual system online. Since the voter is directly providing his or her signature, there is no question regarding the validity of the voter’s signature, and it eliminates any questions about the qualifications of a petition circulator altogether.

But this is exactly why our authoritarian Tea-Publican legislature will oppose any change in the law. It would make citizens initiatives, referendums and recalls more likely to qualify for the ballot, and to directly challenge their legislative authority and control. And we can’t have that, now can we?

11 thoughts on “A simple change in the law is needed for citizens initiatives, referendums and recalls”

  1. Didn’t the legislature try to overturn initiatives by a given percent of legislators overturning it? I seem to remember Justin Olsen sponsoring that. Initiative and referendum are the only way we get to fight back against regressive lawmakers who are so entrenched in their district that they come back every year in spite of the bad legislation they pass.

  2. Does anyone believe that the populists who put initiative into the Arizona constitution did so so that a California union upset with hospital execs could seek revenge by paying professional petition circulators to gather petition signatures to cap their wages?

    • kavenaugh remember the arizonians who died because access would not fund their operations. I have not forgotten. I think many here have so they don’t have to do anything about like bring the republicans responsible for it to justice.

        • the answer is 100 mexican americans turn 18 every day. the question is what is sun city fountain hills and east mesa going to do when we take over? its sort of final jeopardy! for republicans.

          • Big difference between a candidate getting a small percentage of his or campaign money from out of state donors and an initiative drive funded by an out of state union.

          • No, there’s really not, and your own actions prove this when you voted for Senate Bill 1516.

            I’d hang out and debate you, but we all have to work three jobs now so you can take our money and give it to your pal Damon T. Hininger, because his 3.5 million dollar compensation package ain’t gonna’ pay itself.

  3. for the umpteenth time what are YOU going to do about it? besides whine. the nuclear option for something YOU don’t like. refuse to find anyone guilty on jury duty. the good government liberal democrat says Oh! I can’t do that much safer to whine and let the republicans use me for a punching bag. afraid of the nuclear option their are other things to strike back at the republican business community. remember the 1070 boycott?

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