Mon, Nov. 18

Secretary of State determines election law referendum can move forward

PHOENIX -- Counties have verified there are enough valid signatures on petitions to give voters the last word on extensive changes in election laws pushed through the Republican-controlled Legislature.

The Secretary of State's Office said Wednesday that a random check of signatures found 18.38 percent to be invalid. Applying that to the 139,161 that Ken Bennett's office found preliminarily valid, that leaves backers with 113,583, far more than the 86,405 needed to delay enactment of the law and put the issue on the 2014 ballot.

But Barrett Marson said the Republican interests he represents who want the changes on the books may still sue in a last-ditch attempt to keep the issue from voters.

"Some of their signature gatherers have significant issues with residency and felonious conduct,' he said. "This is far from over.'

The legislation, pushed through in the closing hours of this year's session, limits who can take someone else's early ballot to a polling place, sets up procedures to stop sending early ballots to voters who have not used them and imposes stricter requirements on citizen groups proposing their own laws through initiatives.

It also would require minor party candidates to get as many signatures to qualify for the ballot as Republicans or Democrats despite their much smaller voter registration edge. Now, nomination is based on a percentage of registered voters for each party.

Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, acknowledged during floor debate that last change follows losses by at least one Republican in the 2012 congressional race. Mesnard said he believes Libertarian candidates siphon off votes from GOP contenders.

The Arizona Constitution allows voters who get enough signatures to put legislative enactments on "hold' until voters get a chance to ratify or reject the changes at the next general election. The last successful referendum drive was in 1998 when voters overturned a bid by lawmakers to undermine a 1996 law dealing with medical marijuana.

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