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With defeat of immigration measures, some supporters threaten to go the ballot

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, left, chuckles while sitting next to Gilbert Republican Sen. Andy Biggs during a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on March 16. After the defeat of five immigration bills in the Senate this month, Gould is considering taking two of the measures to the ballot. (AP Photo)

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, left, chuckles while sitting next to Gilbert Republican Sen. Andy Biggs during a Senate Appropriations Committee meeting on March 16. After the defeat of five immigration bills in the Senate this month, Gould is considering taking two of the measures to the ballot. (AP Photo)

Critics defeated five controversial immigration measures at the Capitol this month.

But their legislative victory might have only spawned a bigger, more public battle.

Some of the bills’ supporters are now threatening to bring the fight to the ballot box.

Sen. Ron Gould, R-Lake Havasu City, author of two bills designed to provoke the courts to rule on automatic citizenship for the children of illegal immigrants, is mulling taking the measures to the ballot.

Arizona voters have overwhelmingly supported previous ballot measures aimed at confronting illegal immigration.

But while voters have shown they often backed immigration measures, the challenge is always how to get those proposals on the ballot in the first place.

And a citizen’s initiative, the route Gould is proposing, is costly.

“Even if they’re very popular, they’re very hard to get on the ballot,” said former legislator Thayer Verschoor, who helped to put a 2004 immigration initiative on the ballot.

In order to qualify for the ballot, initiatives that change state law require the signatures of 10 percent of registered voters. The official number of signatures for next year’s ballot won’t be determined for another year; last year, 153,365 signatures were required.

Gathering those signatures requires a well-funded campaign. Although there have been high-profile efforts to get measures to the ballot solely through a volunteer force of signature-gatherers, none has ever succeeded in collecting the signatures needed. Instead, initiatives that qualify for the ballot do so by paying firms to gather the signatures.

Gould said he is serious, but the effort is its still in its most preliminary stages.

Whether to go that route also depends on what happens next year, when the bills would likely be reintroduced, he said.

Gould said he is in the process of identifying people who would help him get the measures on the 2012 ballot. Although he hasn’t forged any alliances, Gould said he is confident he can raise the money for the effort, and he believes the topic itself — illegal immigration — makes it easier to gather the signatures.

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