Three bills that have made their way through the State Senate and are now making their way through the State House attack the rights of Arizonans to access the petition process and make their voices heard. It is imperative that your Representatives hear from you to Vote NO on these three bills.
SB1263 would require “background checks” of ALL petition circulators, without specifying the nature or depth of the background check. It would give the Secretary of State unprecedented power to hinder the circulation of petitions, assigns the Secretary of State unlimited powers to adopt a procedures manual that circulators would have to abide by, and would consume large amounts of time that is precious to any group that is engaged in exercising their constitutional rights.
Imagine that a candidate realizes that their volunteers have been slow to collect signatures, so they decide to hire their neighbor’s college-aged kids to help. Would you really have to hire a private investigator to do a full background check on your neighbor’s kid? Yes. Even your own. Worse, they could not circulate petitions until the Secretary of State approved them and entered them into a database. Imagine the stonewalling possible if the Secretary of State was opposing that candidate! In addition to this being a poorly conceived bill, it is likely unconstitutional.
SB1264 is a poorly disguised effort to give the judiciary the power to kill outright any initiative it does not like. It makes any error, no matter how slight or immaterial, fatal, meaning that it would kill the entire petition. The penalty is set in stone so that any judge finding such error would kill the petition, but it provides wide latitude and discretion to the judge as to what is an error or not.
The legal standard should always be the intent of the voter signing the petition – and any legislative action that modifies the petition process must protect the rights of the voters to join together on a petition to make their voices heard. If their intent is clear, then a judge should allow them to exercise their constitutional rights.
SCR1019 is the most blatantly unconstitutional bill of the three. It would require that in order for any initiative to qualify for the ballot, at least 25% of its signatures must come outside of Maricopa and Pima County. Whatever the intent of the bill’s author is, disenfranchising the voters of Maricopa and Pima County by determining that any signatures gathered over a certain amount do not count is an affront to Arizona’s century-old respect for the initiative process. It is also a clear violation of the Constitution in that it seeks to essentially declare “one man, one vote, unless you live in Maricopa or Pima County.”
In total, these bills represent a real power grab away from the citizens of Arizona, and they should each be defeated. Unfortunately, we are late in drawing attention to them and they have all passed out of the Senate. Fortunately, we can stop them in the House.
Please contact your State Representative by calling the main House Switchboard at (800) 352-8404 and let them know that your rights are sacred and are not to be violated.
There have been ballot initiatives that we opposed over the years that would have been stopped by these rules, but that is no reason to support these bills. The right to petition your government should be sacred in Arizona. Good ballot initiatives have also been passed over the years to protect private property rights, the right to a secret ballot, requiring voter ID at the polls, protecting our health care freedoms, and more. Please make your voices heard immediately as these bills could move any day now.
Rep. Steve Montenegro
Rep. David Livingston
Rep. Kelly Townsend
Rep. Darin Mitchell