Arizona voters to decide whether initiative petition signatures should be gathered statewide

Arizona voters in November will decide whether petition signatures gathered by backers of citizen initiatives should come from a broader cross-section of Arizona.

Current law

Proposition 134 would require signatures to be collected from each of the state’s 30 legislative districts. Under current law, petition circulators can collect signatures without regard to the legislative district in which signers reside.

Also under current law, proponents of a constitutional amendment must gather signatures from at least 15% of the qualified electors statewide. Proponents of a statutory measure must gather signatures from at least 10% of the qualified electors statewide.

The proposed change

Under Proposition 134, the total number of required valid signatures to be collected won’t change, nor will the differentiated threshold for constitutional amendments and statutes. But if Proposition 134 passes, proponents will have to hit the percentage threshold in each of the 30 legislative districts.

The number of qualified electors is determined by the number of votes cast in the most recent gubernatorial election. That is left unchanged by Proposition 134.

The referral process

The 56th Arizona Legislature, which adjourned last month, sent 11 measures to the November ballot for voters to decide. In addition to Proposition 134, lawmakers are asking voters to weigh in on subjects like a governor’s emergency powers, judicial retention elections, administrative rulemaking, and much more.

Ballot referrals are placed on the ballot by the state Legislature without the input of the governor.

But citizens can also place measures on the ballot by gathering signatures on petitions. That signature-gathering process is what Proposition 134 would amend.

Voter education

Questions appear on the printed ballot with short descriptions of the effects of a yes or no vote. The Secretary of State’s Office also publishes a publicity pamphlet, which contains an analysis of each measure as approved by the state Legislature’s Legislative Council, as well as arguments submitted by members of the public in support of and against each measure.

The business community view

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry submitted an argument supporting passage of Proposition 134.

“Currently, there are no requirements for initiative backers to gather signatures from across the state, so petition circulators can concentrate their efforts in densely populated urban areas like Phoenix and Tucson with no need to pitch their ideas to voters in more rural and exurban areas. Prop. 134 will make Arizona’s initiative process fairer and more equitable by ensuring that signatures be gathered proportionally across each legislative district,” the Chamber says.

Chamber Vice President of Government Affairs Courtney Coolidge says the reform proposed by Proposition 134 is consistent with the system adopted by other states with a citizen initiative process. “About half the states that have a citizen initiative process have a geographic distribution requirement,” Coolidge said. “It makes sense. After all, if we’re going to be making new laws at the ballot box, we should at least attempt to have them vetted by a representative cross-section of the electorate, including urban and rural. Under the current system, initiative backers have no incentive to test their ideas statewide, which brings into question whether the current system is truly representative.”

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