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Arizona Supreme Court says voters won't be able to change election laws

By Howard Fischer
Capitol Media Services
PHOENIX -- Arizonans won't get a chance to make a series of changes in state election laws.
In a brief order late Friday, the state Supreme Court affirmed a trial judge's conclusion that there were not enough valid signatures on petitions submitted by Arizonans for Free and Fair Elections to qualify for the November ballot.
Backers had submitted more than 475,000 signatures last month.
Some were struck by the Secretary of State's Office, with counties disqualifying others in a random sample. The business-oriented Free Enterprise Club then filed its own challenges.
Judge Joseph Mikitish said once invalid and duplicate signatures were removed, the proposal fell 1,458 short of the 237,645 needed. And the justices rejected arguments by Jim Barton, attorney for the campaign, that Mikitish was using an incorrect formula to determine the disqualification rate of the random sample of signatures reviewed by county election officials.
Scot Mussi, president of the Free Enterprise Club, said the high court got it right in rejecting what initiative backers proposed.
"Their dubious formula cherry picked data that boosted their numbers,'' he said in a prepared statement. "None of their formula was rooted in statute or historical precedent and was a Hail Mary attempt to resuscitate thousands of signatures that simply should not have been counted.''
There was no immediate comment from initiative backers.
The initiative contained a laundry list of proposals that would have eased the process of registration and voting.
Some were new ideas for Arizona, such as allowing people to register and vote at the same time, including on Election Day. And people would have been registered to vote automatically when they get an Arizona driver's license unless they opt out.
It would have ensured that votes were counted no matter in what precinct they are cast as long as it is within the same county.
The proposal also would have reinstated the state's permanent early voting list which automatically provides mail-in ballots for anyone who opts in.
Lawmakers voted to repeal that last year, replacing it with a system that stops the early ballots from coming for those who do not use them for at least two election cycles, though they still would be able to vote in person. Backers of the initiative said that is not fair for those who may not be regular voters, turning out only when there are issues or candidates on the ballot of interest.
Also gone would have been the law that makes it a crime to take someone else's voted early ballot to a polling place unless that person is a relative, member of the same household or a caretaker.
And the initiative would have rolled back decisions by lawmakers to increase the amount of money that individuals and political action committees can give to candidates, a figure currently set at $6,250. It would have been capped at $1,000 for local and legislative candidates and $2,500 for statewide races.
For those who do like to vote in person, the initiative demanded that election officials do what they can to keep waiting times in lines at polling places to no more than 30 minutes, with permission for those who are not election officials to provide food, nonalcoholic beverages, and the use of umbrellas or chairs to make people comfortable as long as those offers are not tied to how someone votes.
There was even a provision designed to keep lawmakers from tinkering with presidential electors. It said that any changes in selection electors has to be made by Jan. 1 of the election year, precluding last-minute changes pushed through in November or December by legislators unhappy with the popular vote.