Four years ago, Arizona lawmakers passed an ambitious plan to curb citizen initiatives and make other substantial changes to elections. They said new rules were needed to reduce voter fraud and streamline elections. That didn’t sell with a coalition of citizen groups. They called the bill voter suppression, and set out to block it. They scrambled, circulated petitions and got the bill referred to the 2014 ballot, where the state’s voters could decide whether to keep it on the books or toss it. Coalition members were confident voters would kill it. So were lawmakers. When they returned to the Capitol for work in early 2014, they repealed the measure and thus removed the issue from the ballot.
Articles about voting issues in Arizona.
Republicans who control the Arizona House on Thursday passed two measures that dramatically tighten rules on how citizen initiatives make the ballot and how they can be challenged, adding to a previously passed law restricting how initiative petition circulators can be paid. Together, the action by the Legislature reassembles a major catch-all bill pushed early in the year by the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry in response to the passage of a minimum wage increase. Republican backers and the Chamber call the measures needed reforms to the initiative process. Democrats and voting rights groups call them an all-out assault on the initiative process that has been in place since statehood. No Democrats voted for the measures, and all Republicans voted yes.
At present, 13 of the state’s 15 counties are linked into the state system, but the two counties each maintain their own voter systems and databases. Pima County recently spent $4 million upgrading and implementing its system. The Secretary of State is exploring the possibility of replacing the statewide system with a more modern platform. The Arizona system was one of two systems nationwide that was hacked last summer. Following an FBI investigation, it was thought to be by Russian hackers. During the investigation, the state system, as well as the 13 counties on the system, were shut down for a week. “Maricopa and Pima Counties were able to keep working, processing voter requests, processing whatever we needed to do,” said Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriquez.
The state Senate on Wednesday approved a bill to curb the citizen-initiative process, following another controversial initiative measure that passed last month. House Bill 2244 imposes a “strict compliance” legal standard on measures that citizen groups want to bring to the ballot. What that ultimately could mean would be up to the courts. But in a lengthy debate, senators sketched scenarios in which it could head off potential problems, or could go as far as disqualifying a voter’s signature if he used a shortened version of his name instead of how it appears on his voter registration. The bill is part of an effort this year by Republican lawmakers, backed by the chambers of commerce, including the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce, to put further limits on the process by which citizens can make law.
The rocky relations between Secretary of State Michele Reagan and Arizona’s county recorders continue. The flash point: Voter registration. Last fall, and again in early February, her office tapped into the voter-registration databases run by Maricopa and Pima counties. The two large counties were perplexed — and more than a little peeved. They said this had not happened since a test on the system in 2010. Plus, Reagan should have forwarded whatever request for information her office was researching to them, instead of just logging in, Maricopa County Recorder Adrian Fontes and Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez said. And to add insult to injury, they complained they couldn’t get answers on why Reagan’s office was, in their view, snooping in their data.
Arizona: Maricopa County report says 40,000 voter registration forms found sitting in boxes | Associated Press
A report released Thursday from the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office said 40,000 voter registration forms received before the 2016 election were left sitting in boxes by the previous administration. Under Proposition 200, Arizona voter registration forms are required to have proof of citizenship attached. Without it, the registrant would not be considered eligible to vote in the state. The forms found in the boxes did not have that proof. “It was the policy of the previous administration that if a voter registration form did not comply with Prop. 200 — and it did not show proof of citizenship — it went into a box after a letter went out saying, ‘We need more information,’” Recorder Adrian Fontes, who was elected in November, said.
Just days after Gov. Doug Ducey signed a new law opponents said will make it harder for citizen initiatives to make the ballot, Republican Arizona lawmakers are reviving stripped parts of that legislation that will make it much easier for opponents to challenge initiatives in court. The new proposal changes the legal standard required to keep an initiative off the ballot. It says the language in the proposed measure is subject to a “strict compliance” standard rather than “substantial compliance.” That will allow citizen’s initiative to be thrown out for mere paperwork or language errors, even if the proposed law complies with other respects to the law. The “substantial compliance” standard now in place allows such minor errors if the intent of measure remains clear.
Republican lawmakers are considering another measure aimed at the initiative process through which Arizonans can propose their own laws. The proposal up for debate Wednesday, March 29, would subject initiative organizers to $1,000-an-incident fines for violations of law committed by anyone they hire, or any workers of firms they hire, to collect signatures. Legislation signed last week by Gov. Doug Ducey banned paying petition circulators by the signature. Circulators can still be paid by the hour or some other basis. Not a single measure has qualified for the ballot in at least three decades without some use of paid circulators.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey wasted no time Thursday signing legislation that opponents say would make it tougher to get citizen initiatives on the ballot, but supporters say will reduce fraud in signature gathering. Ducey signed the measure into law less than three hours after it received final House approval. House Bill 2404 bans groups seeking to put an initiative on the ballot from paying petition circulators by the signature and makes it easier to challenge citizen initiatives in court. The governor’s action gives Republicans and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry a victory in one of their top priorities of the year. House Bill 2404 was approved by the Senate Wednesday, with no votes from Democrats, and the House followed Thursday, also without Democratic support.
Arizona: Settlement could show Maricopa County voters kicked off election rolls | The Arizona Republic
A settlement between the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office and a national voting-rights group could shine a light on how voters are removed from voting rolls across Greater Phoenix. The Recorder’s Office will turn over an electronic list of more than 2 million voter registrations to Project Vote, a Washington, D.C.-based nonpartisan group. The organization last year sued the county after receiving a bill for $50,000 from the previous county recorder to obtain the data, even though political parties get the same information for free, as required by law.