A senate panel voted Wednesday to throw some additional hurdles in the path of Arizonans who want to write their own laws.
Existing law already has a set of requirements for putting a measure on the ballot to propose a new statute or constitutional amendment. These include for who can circulate petitions, what has to be on each page and how many names can be on each sheet. SB 1493 adds some new ones, including a mandate to organize petition sheets by county of residence of signers, by the circulator on that signature sheet, and by the name of the person who notarized each. But the real change is that the legislation says that both election officials and courts, in reviewing the validity of petitions, must void those that are not in “strict compliance” with all legal requirements. That change is significant.
Last year the Arizona Supreme Court allowed a vote on a measure to permanently increase the state sales tax by one cent despite some irregularities in the process. Specifically, backers had turned in one version of their plan on paper to the Secretary of State and a different one in digital format.
Chief Justice Rebecca Berch ruled the issue is whether there has been “substantial compliance” with the laws. She said that “strikes the appropriate balance between protecting our citizens’ right to initiate new laws and the integrity of the election process.”
This measure, in essence, would overrule that with language saying that strict compliance “provides the surest method for safeguarding the integrity and accuracy of the initiative and referendum process.”