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Brewer calls Aug. 9 special session on secret ballot issue

Gov. Jan Brewer (file photo)

Gov. Jan Brewer (file photo)

Gov. Jan Brewer has called for a special session following the state Supreme Court’s ruling that a legislative referral must be removed from the ballot because it violates the single-subject rule in the state Constitution. 

The state’s highest court ruled Aug. 3 that Proposition 108 won’t be considered by Arizona voters during the November general election. The court didn’t include an explanation to back up the decision, but noted a detailed opinion will be released soon.

Lawmakers passed the referral in an effort to protect the right to vote by secret ballot in elections to establish labor union representation and in elections for state officers.

The special session is set for Aug. 9.

The session will exclusively address the issue of secret balloting. No other item is on the table.

“The right to cast your vote without fear or intimidation is a fundamental tenant of our democracy,” Brewer said. “I believe that Arizona voters should be provided the opportunity to support and protect a constitutional right to a secret ballot for Arizona employees.”

Senate President Bob Burns and House Speaker Kirk said they have enough votes in both chambers to pass the legislative fix.

House Majority Leader John McComish said legislative leaders have called lawmakers to make sure they were available.

“It looks like that we’ll be on the same page as the Senate and ready to go on Monday afternoon,” McComish said.

Senate Majority Whip Steve Pierce said he has polled members of his caucus and was confident a referral to fix Prop. 108 would get enough votes to pass.

“If the special session were today, we would have the votes to fix this,” he said

Earlier in the week, the governor and some lawmakers floated the idea of calling a special session to change portions of the state’s new immigration law after a federal judge blocked the most significant parts of it from taking effect. But, for now, it appears changes to SB1070 are off the table.

Any changes to the Prop. 108 ballot measure would have to come soon in order to meet the secretary of state’s deadline to receive ballot-measure language to place on the ballot.

Lawmakers would have to act within days on a revised version of Prop. 108 if they want to ensure voters can decide this issue in November.

Matt Benson, spokesman for the Secretary of State’s Office, said his office would need to submit new language for the ballot measure or measures by Wednesday, Aug. 11.

“Tuesday is the deadline, but we are saying that we can push it until Wednesday, provided that the language doesn’t change between Tuesday and Wednesday,” Benson said.

The Legislature originally referred Prop. 108 to voters during the 2009 session. It was designed to thwart a federal proposal to implement what is known as “card-check” elections used to unionize business workforces.

The federal proposal, known as the Employee Free Choice Act, would do away with workforce organizing elections where workers cast their ballots in secrecy. The act mandates that a union bargaining unit would be formed if labor organizers secure the written approval of a majority of a business’ workers.

Goldwater Institute attorney Clint Bolick said the measure would be the state’s best defense against any new federal laws that would strip secret-ballot elections for creating a labor union, he said.

The Goldwater Institute’s Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation represented the campaign committee supporting Prop. 108.

“We do not know the reason that the court tossed Prop. 108 off the ballot, but this outcome represents another lurch in the Arizona Supreme Court’s rulings on the issue of single-subject ballot measures, rulings that seem to zig or zag with each new case,” Bolick said. “It is impossible to know how to draft a measure when the court’s rules shift like sand in the wind.”

-Reporter Jeremy Duda contributed to this story.

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