The Arizona Supreme Court today released its more complete reasoning in why it previously ordered the Stop Dark Money initiative to be placed on this November’s ballot (as Prop. 211).

In late August, just before ballot printing was to begin, the Court ruled that citizens’ initiatives Stop Dark Money (aka Voters’ Right To Know Act) and the Predatory Debt Collection Protection Act (Prop. 209) could be placed on the ballot. As is typical in these expedited election appeals, the Court promised full written opinions were to follow.

Today’s Opinion, written by Vice Chief Justice Ann Timmer and agreed to by all of the other Justices, explains their reasoning on the two appealed issues. First, they decided that paid circulators’ petitions should not be disqualified simply because they did not list a unit number on their residence address (when they registered as paid circulators). The Court found that the Legislature would have included that requirement if they had wanted to and that most challengers would serve subpoenas on the initiative’s committee, anyway.

The bigger issue was another technical one dealing with paid circulators’ registrations. The Legislature had required them to file a new affidavit for each different initiative they worked for. However, the Legislature also set up the process for the Election Procedures Manual to have the effect of law. In 2019, the Secretary of State, Governor and Attorney General all signed off on an EPM that allowed the Secretary of State to set up the registration portal for the circulators. That portal does not permit them to submit more than one affidavit.

The Court found that that was wrong. However, they refused to strike all of the circulators’ gathered signatures because of it, saying that would be unfair to the committee and the citizens who signed.

Challengers assert we should not excuse the Committee’s noncompliance with § 19-118(B)(5) because it could have submitted new affidavits by mail or email, even if the Secretary would have rejected them, or sought a court order forcing acceptance. This is a bar too high. The legislature required the Committee to follow the Secretary’s procedures, see § 19-118(A), and the Committee did so. Disqualifying signatures for adhering to the Secretary’s registration requirements would be tantamount to blessing a trap laid for unwary sponsoring committees. (Emphasis added)

 

This article was reported by AZ Law founder Paul Weich. Paul was running for a seat in Arizona’s House of Representatives.

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