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Minimum wage measure faces new obstacle

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A bid to get a public vote to hike the state’s minimum wage is now facing a new hurdle.

Election officials in Pima, Pinal and Yavapai counties have concluded that 276 names on petitions to put the issue on the November ballot cannot be verified.

That may not seem like much.

But the secretary of state’s office sends counties a random sample of petitions with just 5 percent of all names submitted. Those names then become a test of the full petition.

What that means is each name county officials void strikes 20 names off the full petitions.

In a new lawsuit, attorney Israel Torres is asking Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Gerlach to overturn those county actions. But if Gerlach disagrees, that means the total signatures submitted, as calculated by the secretary of state, will be reduced by 5,520.

It’s come down to a game of numbers.

The Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry already has filed suit challenging whether the petition drive has the 150,642 signatures required.

Backers of the initiative to raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2020 submitted petitions with 271,183 names. But the secretary of state’s office, after a preliminary screening, reduced that to 238,937.

The chamber’s challenge is based on its contention that some paid circulators and those from out of state had not complied with Arizona laws requiring them to provide an in-state address where they could be contacted.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joshua Rogers already has disqualified some circulators. But since each circulator gathered a different number of signatures it remains to be seen how many names that ultimately removes from the total.

That, in turn, makes the issue of whether those 5,520 names will be counted more critical.

Rogers has yet to issue a final ruling in the case.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Jo Lynn Gentry is considering a separate lawsuit to block a November vote on a measure that would legalize the recreational use of marijuana by adults. Challengers contend the wording of the measure is misleading and a required 100-word summary does not inform petition signers and voters of the key provisions.

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