An Arizona Senate panel dominated by Republicans rejected concerns from voting rights activists Thursday and advanced legislation that opponents say will make it harder to get citizen initiatives on the ballot. Proponents say the changes are needed to eliminate fraud in the signature gathering process required to qualify measures for the ballot. The bill makes it easier to challenge signatures and bars petition circulators from being paid per signature collected. Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee approved House Bill 2404 on a 4-3 party-line vote. It has already passed the House, so approval by the full Senate would send it to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey’s desk.
… Chamber attorney Brett Johnson, an elections law expert, told the committee that the measure is designed to handle fraud, but more importantly make sure signatures are gathered correctly so the integrity of the process is protected.
Sen. Martin Quezada, D-Phoenix, directly challenged Johnson on the fraud claims pushed by Leach and other proponents. “Are there significant instances of rampant fraud in the initiative process in Arizona that necessitates the passage of HB2404?” Quezada asked. “I’m not aware of anything specifically in regard to fraud,” Johnson said. “But process is more important.”
Most circulators are now paid by the signature, rather than hourly. Lawmakers did not include themselves in the ban on paying per signature when they collect to qualify for the ballot. Leach has acknowledged that he used paid circulators to qualify for the ballot last year.