Arizona voters likely to decide on earlier deadlines for petition drives

2013-02-19T00:00:00Z Arizona voters likely to decide on earlier deadlines for petition drivesHoward Fischer Capitol Media Services Arizona Daily Star
February 19, 2013 12:00 am  • 

PHOENIX - It appears Arizona voters are going to get another chance to decide whether to reduce the time they have to propose their own state laws and constitutional amendments.

Without debate, the Senate voted 18-12 Monday to set the deadline for filing the necessary signatures at six months before the general election, moving it to early May - two months before the current deadline.

SCR 1006 is supported by county election officials who say the July deadline leaves them little time to verify there are sufficient signatures and also to deal with the court challenges that have become more common.

Last year, for example, there were lawsuits dealing with two separate voter-proposed measures still pending while counties were ready to start printing the ballots. Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said she should not have to be in a position to ask a court to rush its decision.

Opposition is coming from not only Democrats, but also from the Sierra Club, which points to the difficulty of gathering sufficient valid signatures to put issues on the ballot.

It currently takes 172,809 signatures to propose a new or amended statute, a figure based on the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election. Constitutional amendments require 259,213 signatures.

Sen. Steve Gallardo, D-Phoenix, proposed easing the signature requirements to go along with the earlier deadline, but could not get that provision added to the measure.

Only Sen. Robert Meza, D-Phoenix, broke ranks with other Democrats to support the measure, with all the other votes in support cast by Republicans.

An identical measure on the 2012 ballot failed by just 128 votes out of nearly 1.6 million votes cast.

If the measure gets House approval, it would be placed on the 2014 ballot. There is no requirement for gubernatorial approval of ballot measures.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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