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AZ House Passes Crucial Reform to Ensure Fair Representation on Ballot Initiatives

June 13, 2023

Arizonans are entitled to fair representation on the ballot, but existing law allows special interests to put sweeping measures on the ballot without gathering support from every part of the state. Yesterday, the Arizona House passed SCR 1015, the Goldwater Institute’s Geographic Distribution Requirement Act, which addresses this issue by requiring a percentage of registered voters from EACH legislative district to express their support for a statewide initiative before it can appear on a ballot.

Sponsored by Sen. J.D. Mesnard, this commonsense reform will now appear as a ballot proposition on the 2024 Arizona general election.

An equal representation of voters in our electoral processes is a critical safeguard to help ensure all parts of our state can provide input on important issues that affect all Arizonans. Yet signatures from only a small percentage of registered voters across the state are required to put statewide initiatives (10%), constitutional changes (15%), and referendums (5%) on the ballot. This means sweeping “reforms” can appear on Arizona ballots as propositions with only a small fraction of the state having a say.

In practice, proponents gather signatures in the state’s largest cities to put statutory and constitutional changes on the ballot. In other words, a measure may only have support in high-population areas like Phoenix, Tucson, or Tempe—while voters outside of large cities are left with little voice.

The grim reality is that a measure can be placed on and passed at the ballot with signatures and votes from just Maricopa County. Issues such as tax increases, which can disproportionately impact rural and underserved districts, can appear on a statewide ballot without those districts getting a say.

Worse, because of Arizona’s unique Voter Protection Act, when these initiatives garner enough signatures to appear on a ballot and then receive enough votes to become law, the legislature cannot repeal them, and amending them is nearly impossible.

Since the burden to amend language passed at the ballot is so high, it is even more critical that we have proper safeguards in place to ensure the language is vetted by as many citizens as possible. Without ballot initiative reform, Arizona voters are disenfranchised.

That’s why the Geographic Distribution Requirement Act is so important. Arizonans are entitled to fair representation on the ballot, and SCR1015 gives them just that.



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