by Jim Nintzel
This week's Skinny notes that it's the moment of truth for two referendum efforts to overturn laws passed in the last legislative session.
Former state lawmaker Frank Antenori's referendum to block the expansion of Medicaid has fizzled out, but the Protect Your Right To Vote Committee came through with roughly 146,000 petition signatures. Since they need about 87,000 valid signatures to put the referendum on the 2014 ballot, it looks like they could have an error rate of about 40 percent and still make the ballot. And on last week's AZ Illustrated Politics, attorney Jeff Rogers said that campaign organizers had been going through the petitions and crossing off bad signatures, which should reduce the potential error rate.
Still, Maricopa County election officials were some of the biggest proponents of the new law, so expect them to go over the petitions with magnifying glass. And we wouldn't be surprised to see GOP operatives file a lawsuit to disqualify signatures.
For more on the election law and the referendum effort, see the TW feature story "Ballot Boxing."
More to come on this story, but here's the press release from the Protect Your Right To Vote Committee:
The Protect Your Right to Vote Committee today delivered approximately 146,000 petition signatures to the Arizona Secretary of State to put the Legislature’s attempt to get tough on Arizona voters to a vote of the people. An unprecedented coalition of more than 25 non-profit civic engagement organizations joined together to stand up for Arizona voting rights and put House Bill 2305 on the Nov. 2014 ballot. The Legislature passed the bill — which changed almost 20 separate areas of election law with virtually no public testimony— by a near party-line vote in June. The Committee is confident it has enough valid signatures to exceed the 86,405 threshold to put the referendum on the ballot, said Chairwoman Julie Erfle.
“Voters will have their say after all,” said Erfle. “It was wrong for career politicians to try and influence elections by putting up roadblocks for voters who might not agree with them and to make criminals out of dedicated campaign volunteers. As we gathered signatures, even in the heat of an Arizona summer and in the face of efforts to block our signature drive, we were inspired by the willingness of Arizonans to stand up for voting rights. We found strong support from voters of all political stripes, persuasions and backgrounds. That does not bode well for the authors and supporters of HB2305, including many Arizona legislators.”
HB2305 would make it a crime for volunteers to collect and drop off ballots at the polls. These efforts help elderly, homebound, disabled and working voters to participate in elections.
HB2305 would kick voters off the Permanent Early Voting List if they fail to vote in two consecutive elections — both primary and general. This would decrease participation and disproportionally impact newly registered Latino, young and Independent voters who are not likely to vote if removed from this list.
HB2305 would keep third parties off the ballot by raising the signature requirement to put a candidate on the ballot for all political parties except Republicans. Ballot access for third party candidates will become unlikely, reducing voter choice. For example, the number of signatures required for Libertarian candidates would increase by 4,000 percent.
HB2305 makes it more difficult for Arizona citizens to engage in direct democracy or overturn bad laws passed by the Legislature through citizen initiatives. By instituting a host of minor technical barriers — including the margin size on petitions — that can be challenged in court, politicians are trying to take away an important right that’s been part of Arizona’s constitution since statehood.
Petition circulators began working on July 1 to gather the required signatures. If qualified, HB2305 will be put on hold until voters have their say in November of 2014. Supporters of the referendum effort will be encouraging Arizona voters to vote “no.”
The Protect Your Right to Vote Committee is a coalition of more than 25 non-profit organizations working together to put HB2305 to a vote of the people. These include civic engagement organizations, Latino voter engagement groups, conservation organizations, animal welfare groups and labor organizations. It also includes leaders and members of the Libertarian, Green and Democratic parties.
Member organizations include:
AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Animal Defense League of Arizona, Arizona Advocacy Network, Arizona Center for Empowerment, Arizona Education Association, Arizona List, AZ Community Action Association, Central Arizonans for a Sustainable Economy, Citizens for a Better Arizona, Communications Workers of Arizona, East Valley Patriots for American Values, Equality Arizona, Humane Society of the United States, Humane Voters of Arizona, League of Women Voters, Living United for Change in Arizona, Mi Familia Vota, NARAL Arizona, National Education Association, One Arizona, PAFCO, Planned Parenthood, Promise Arizona, SEIU, Sierra Club, and UFCW.
Paid for by Protect Your Right to Vote Committee (Opposing R-03-2014) with major funding by National Education Association, United Food and Commercial Workers, America's Families First, Inc., and American Federation of State, County & Municipal Employees