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Arizona Open Primary Initiative Headed Back to Court

by Kymberly Bays, published


Another challenge for the Open Elections/Open Government Act in Arizona arose today, as Maricopa County officials announced  a review of petition signatures of voters from the county may not provide the number "sufficient to qualify" the measure for November's ballot.

It's a significant development as organizers of the ballot initiative, which would implement open primary elections in Arizona, gathered over 100,000 more signatures than required. In an effort that began last October, 365,486 signatures from Arizona voters were gathered in order to meet and exceed the 259,213 required by law. It is a state record for any proposed constitutional amendment that eventually passed, according to a committee statement.

While every other county's validation check shows a high percentage of valid signatures, Maricopa County officials claim the initiatives signatures hold a rate of just 67 percent validation. Roughly 71 percent is the minimum to qualify for the ballot.

Organizers disagree with Maricopa County officials on their finding.

“Needless to say, our goal was to qualify for the ballot, so we had every motivation and the time to be methodical, and go above and beyond both in terms of total signatures as well the validation rate, and that we did,“ said Joe Yuhas, a political consultant who is helping to guide the effort.

The Open Elections/Open Government Committees holds that an internal validation process was implemented and followed in order to prevent such an outcome.

“It comes as no great surprise to us that the validation rates reported by county officials up to today closely mirror our own internal validation rate” said Yuhas. “Yet, the Maricopa County validation rate is not only inconsistent with our own internal validation review, but more importantly, it is significantly lower than that reported by all other counties.”

Supporters of the Arizona open primary initiative say this latest attempt to prevent the ballot measure from appearing before voters in November is not unexpected.

“The Governor and Legislature tried to put roadblocks in front of us,” said Paul Johnson, Chairman of the Open Elections/Open Government campaign, in a statement today. “Next, the lobbyists and political bosses who like things just the way they are filed a lawsuit against the initiative which the Supreme Court threw out. This is not our first legal challenge, nor do we believe it will be our last."

Just last week the Arizona Supreme Court overruled a previous Superior Court judgement that the initiative violated the state constitution's single subject rule.

"We plan to follow the process and file the appeal,” said Johnson. "We’re gearing up for the next fight.”

Organizers have five days to file an appeal contesting the validity of signatures gathered.

“The large anomaly, what appears to be a much more rigid standard in Maricopa County compared to all other counties, and past court decisions all provides us with great confidence that additional signatures will be validated by the courts," said Johnson.


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