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Arizona election referendum certified for 2014 ballot

PHOENIX — The Arizona Secretary of State on Tuesday certified that more
than enough valid signatures were turned in to let voters decide if a
Republican-backed law making sweeping changes to election laws goes into effect.

Barring legal challenges expected from backers of the law, the referendum on
House Bill 2305 will appear on the November 2014 ballot. In the meantime, the
bill passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature in June is on hold.

Democrats called the law passed with only Republican votes and signed into law
by GOP Gov. Jan Brewer a thinly veiled effort to keep Republicans in power by
creating new hurdles for low-income voters and some candidates. Opponents began
a petition drive in July with volunteers and paid circulators and turned in more
than 144,000 petition signatures on Sept. 11.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett’s office tossed out about 5,000 signatures as
invalid, and sent a 5 percent sample of the rest to election officials in
Arizona’s 15 counties for spot checks earlier this month. Those reviews cut
another 26,440 signatures, meaning 110,770 were declared valid.

Only 86,405 valid signatures were needed to force the referendum.

Opponents vowed to challenge the signatures in court.

“This is early in the process,” said Barrett Marson, a spokesman for two
groups opposed to the referendum effort. “There are thousands and thousands of
questionable signatures that were collected by questionable circulators – people
who don’t have residency here as required by state law and who didn’t fill out
paperwork as required by the Secretary of State’s office or are felons and
collected signatures.”

Robbie Sherwood, spokesman for the Protect Your Right To Vote Committee which
spearheaded the effort, said the validation rate of more than 80 percent was
“just unheard of in an effort like this.”

“What the certification tells us is today is a big win for Arizona voters and
for voting rights,” Sherwood said. “But it’s only part of the battle. We’re
prepared to fend off any legal challenges that may arise, and we expect to be on
the ballot on November 4 (2014).

“And when that happens we’re also confident that Arizona voters are going to
toss these absolutely unnecessary changes in the dumpster where they belong,”
he added.

HB2305 seeks to trim Arizona’s permanent early voting list by cutting
non-active voters and limits who may return mail-in ballots for voters. It also
ups the number of signatures third-party candidates must gather to appear on the
ballot, a provision that infuriated Libertarians because it would require them
to collect as many signatures as major party candidates to get on the ballot.

Other changes would require signature gatherers to organize their filings by
county and tightens language requirements for initiatives, making them easier
for opponents to challenge.

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