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Ballot initiative signature collection continues in Arizona despite virus

(Facebook Photo/Save Our Schools Arizona)

PHOENIX — As the coronavirus outbreak disrupts many aspects of life, efforts in Arizona to collect signatures to get initiatives on the November ballot continue.

“This is definitely not the plan that we started out with – that is for sure,” Dawn Penich-Thacker, spokesperson for Save Our Schools Arizona, said referring to the coronavirus. “But we’re still getting a lot of interest from people.”

Her group is collecting signatures for a ballot initiative that would essentially bar state lawmakers from expanding Arizona’s school voucher program, which allows parents to use state funds to send their kids to private schools and pay for certain educational services.

They have until July 2 to collect more than 237,000 signatures of registered Arizona voters to make it to the November ballot.

Penich-Thacker said her group is working hard to meet that deadline. They’re currently mailing petitions to people.

“What they’re doing then is circulating these petitions within their own personal circle in their households or with the few co-workers they see,” she said.

A few weeks ago, her group was holding “Drive-Thru Democracy” events. They were setting up at parking lots and street corners to collect signatures from people driving by.

Groups collecting signatures for other ballot initiatives, including the Invest In Ed Initiative to raise income taxes for wealthier Arizonans to generate funds for public schools, have tried similar efforts.

Those efforts were halted after state and local leaders, following recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, called on people to not gather in groups of more than 10.

Penich-Thacker said volunteers are “eager to go out there when it’s safe and make up for lost time.”

“Once it’s safe to do so, I think we’re going to come charging out of the gate and collect all those signatures we maybe couldn’t get now so that voters get to have their say in November,” she said.

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