There have been several attacks on the democratic process within our state this legislative session. Arizona Republicans in the Legislature have continued to push unpopular and unnecessary legislative items, including extreme attacks on the ballot initiative process. We need our legislators to vote against bills that will intentionally place barriers on the people’s involvement in the democratic process.
There are currently two bills, SCR1024 and SB1531 that could completely disrupt the ballot initiative process as we know it. There is also a budget reconciliation bill, HB2891, which could potentially grant the attorney general full oversight over ballot initiative descriptions without any consideration from the secretary of state, further politicizing the ballot initiative process that works for all.
SCR1024 would change the requirements for a ballot initiative based on tax revenues to pass from 50% majority to over ⅔ majority of voters. Under these proposed requirements, Proposition 208, the Invest in Education initiative, would not have passed despite receiving a majority vote.
SB1531 would require that petition signers hear every word of the ballot initiative description out loud before they sign it. This has never been a requirement under Arizona state statute and forces volunteers who are obtaining signatures to endure an unnecessarily complicated procedure in the initiative process where it has not been required before.
All of these bills are a serious threat to democracy in Arizona. If we were to allow these harmful ballot initiative attacks to pass through the Legislature, Arizonans could see a decrease in direct democratic involvement, because people are just being met with further restrictions and blockades in essential areas of government. These bills push Arizonans farther and farther away from the Legislature — this should never be the ultimate goal in legislation.
Ballot initiatives have been a constitutional right in our state since 1912 and are essential in ensuring the people of Arizona are able to pass legislation that is wanted and critical for Arizonans. The ballot initiative process was created so that voters could decide on beneficial policies that are not otherwise being addressed by Arizona lawmakers. These initiatives have addressed a multitude of issues which have been solved by voter choice in our state. These issues range from technical corrections, to women’s suffrage, which was one of the first ballot initiatives when Arizona became a state.
These ballot initiative bills would force the state to redo the standards for the entire ballot measure process, simply because one party does not like it. This notion is entirely anti-democratic and sets a terrible precedent for how the Legislature will handle bills in the future.
If SB1531 were to pass, we would also see major struggles in passing ballot initiatives. In the process of receiving a signature for an initiative, a volunteer or paid circulator usually hands a clipboard to a signer after a brief explanation, which then allows the signer to read the full language from the initiative on the paper they sign. With the added element of reading the entire language aloud, the AZ GOP are adding additional steps to a process that is already very difficult to obtain signatures. Making essential elements of democracy more tedious and harder to access.
Arizona Republicans are pushing bills that give them more power in the Legislature and that take away from the power of the people. The attacks on these rights are extensive and Republicans trying to pass these bills argue that they keep “special interest” outside of the Legislature. These bills have major implications for the future of the democratic process in our state. The AZ GOP is aiming to take away voter involvement in our political system as it allows further restriction of progress throughout the state.
Arizonans do not want to see ballot initiatives go away and we should not have to give up our constitutional protections to this right any time soon. Arizona representatives owe it to their constituents to vote no on SCR1024, SB1531 and HB2891 to save the people of Arizona’s constitutional right to democratic participation.
Maya Perez is a communications fellow at Progress Arizona.