Both the outgoing governor, U.S. Homeland Security Secretary-nominee Janet Napolitano, and her successor, Jan Brewer, have called for major reform of the state's initiative process. So has the Arizona Republic, in this recent editorial. It's hard to blame them. Arizona saw perhaps unprecedented signature fraud last year. A typical validity rate for signatures collected in an initiative campaign is 70 percent. But multiple measures last year had validity rates of less than 50 percent. That's strong evidence of institutional, across-the-board fraud.
Here's a ballot initiative idea that could catch on across the country. Arizonans who don't like cameras that take pictures of speeding drivers are working to qualify an initiative that would bar authorities from issuing tickets based on such cameras -- unless the motorist was more than 20 miles per hour over the speed limit. The Republic has a story.
The conservative Weekly Standard takes a look at Prop 107, the 2006 Arizona initiative that failed to ban same-sex marriage, and Prop 102, the 2008 Arizona ban that passed. What was the difference? The 2006 ban would have barred domestic partnerships. The 2008 initiative protected domestic partnerships. Also, the Standard quotes a leader of the no campaign as saying that fundraising was weak because California's No on Prop 8 campaign soaked up so much money. If that's true, it means the disastrous No on 8 campaign in California was responsible not only for the setback for marriage equality in California but also for the defeat in Arizona.
An Arizona ballot initiative that would have prevented health care reform proposals such as the one that passed in Massachusetts (and failed to pass in California) has been defeated. Early returns had shown that Prop 101 was too close to call, but supporters of the initiative all but conceded defeat yesterday. Other good news for would-be reformers: In Wisconsin, a non-binding referendum on whether the legislature should enact health care reform passed easily. The measure said that the reform should guarantee health care coverage for all that is as good as what state lawmakers receive. But no method of achieving such an outcome was specified.
Bans on same-sex marriage appear to have won in Florida and Arizona. And Prop 8, the California ban on gay marriage, is leading early, with nearly 53 percent of the vote. That number will likely shrink as the night goes on. Early tallies are heavy with mail ballots; those voters tend to be older, and age is the best predictor of how people vote on same-sex marriage. It's possible that this race will remain so tight that we may not know the outcome for days, if not weeks.
That's what some are saying about Prop 105 in Arizona, and I tend to agree. The ballot initiative is being sold as an anti-tax measure, because a majority of those voting would no longer be enough to pass a tax or mandate government spending. Instead, a majority of all registered voters to pass a tax or spending. That's a high, high bar -- given that voter turnout in state elections hovers around 50 percent. But since, almost any initiative would require some government spending, this effectively end the initiative process in Arizona.
If this were to pass, and it has a great name "Majority Rules," the initiative also could have one unintended consequence: reducing the number of registered voters in Arizona. At the very least, interest groups and many leading politicians would have a major incentive to reduce the number of registered voters--precisely to make it easier for initiatives to pass.
In drafting ballot initiatives, sponsors often face a choice. They can give their measure a better chance of winning by making it vague. A specific provision is easier to attack. But vague provisions often provoke legal challenges that block successful initiatives from taking effect. Such may be the case with Arizona's Prop 101, the ballot initiative designed to prevent the sort of health care reforms passed in Massachusetts and pursued in California. (Speciifically, the initiative bans the state from requiring people to get health care coverage, and would seem to bar a single-payer system). In this Arizona Republic story on the measure, critics suggest the initiative is so ambiguous that its real meaning might be decided in the courts.
And now the head of the state's indigent care system suggests the initiative, if passed, would force his department to close.
The East Valley Tribune reports that the Arizona attorney general's office has launched a criminal investigation of the signature gathering efforts of several initiatives there. So many signatures proved to be invalid that several measures failed to qualify for the ballot. The Tribune story says that investigators are examining whether fraud was the reason for all the invalid signatures.
The Humane Society doesn't just protect animals. They're the leading defender of the initiative process. And as the blog Animals & Politics, by Humane Society Legislative Fund president Michael Markarian (above) makes clear, Arizona is about to feel the full weight of the society. Specifically, the Humane Society is exercised about Prop 105, the newest in a series of super-majority requirement for ballot initiatives that is sweeping the nation. Florida implemented a requirement that 60 percent of voters approve a ballot initiative. And Utah, trying to fight off the Humane Society, implemented one that only covers measures on wildlife protection.
But the Arizona ballot initiative goes further, by requiring that a majority of ALL REGISTERED VOTERS approve an initiative before it takes effect. Just winning among people who show up would not be enough.
Backers of Ward Connerly's anti-affirmative action initiative on Friday abandoned their lawsuit to try to get the measure on the ballot. It had appeared to have enough to qualify, but was kicked off the ballot because of an unusually high rate of invalid signatures. The supporters of the measure were going back through signatures in Maricopa County, but ran out of time to go through all of them, in part because the county was providing them only two computers to do the work. They say they'll try again in 2010.
I'd be surprised if they can get the money. Connerly and his supporters have proven incapable of getting the basics of qualifying initiatives right. He had originally planned to have a similar initiative on the ballot in five states. But he has failed in three states, and his initiative in Colorado is in trouble. The only state he's made the ballot? Nebraska.