Republicans aim to limit future ballot initiatives like the Arizona Abortion Access Act

By Robert Gundran

copper courier

Arizona is a strange state which makes Michigan appear to be sane. Obviously, politicians want to be in control and they are taking any method of doing so. This came about due to a bunch of Arizona judges decided to make abortion something very difficult to do.

“With a stroke of a pen on Thursday, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs struck down a 160-year-old near-total abortion ban.

Just a day earlier, Democrats in the state Senate succeeded in peeling away enough Republican votes to repeal an abortion ban first passed in 1864, while Arizona was still a territory.”

Arizona 1864 abortion law is officially repealed, but when it takes effect remains uncertain • Utah News Dispatch

Repubs are hoping they can minimize these initiatives (in the article).

SCR 1015 would significantly curb Arizonans’ power to initiate ballot measures.

Arizona voters will likely have the chance to vote on abortion rights this November thanks to a citizen-led ballot initiative. Meanwhile, the Republican-majority Legislature is asking voters to weigh in on another measure that would make direct democracy like this extremely difficult in the future.

The Arizona Abortion Access Act would enshrine abortion up to fetal viability, or about 24 weeks of pregnancy, as a constitutional right. If the initiative reaches the needed number of signatures by July 3, voters will get to pass it by simple majority.

Right now, citizen-led ballot initiatives need a number of valid signatures equal to 10% of all votes cast in the most recent governor’s race to get it on the ballot, and 15% for constitutional changes. For example, the Arizona Abortion Access Act needs about 384,000 valid signatures to get on the 2024 ballot—15% of the 2,559,485 total votes cast, because it’s a constitutional amendment.

If passed, the Republicans’ SCR 1015 would amend the state constitution to change this requirement. Citizen-led ballot initiatives would need the number of valid signatures equal to 10% or 15% of votes cast in the most recent governor’s race in all 30 legislative districts across the state.

This means that even if there are enough valid signatures in 29 districts, if just one misses the mark, that initiative would not make it on the ballot. Even if the total number of signatures met the threshold statewide.

One of the current ways opponents to a ballot measure aim to make it fail before it reaches the ballot is through challenging signatures as invalid. If voters pass SCR 1015, opponents to a measure would not need to successfully challenge tens of thousands of signatures. They would just have to successfully challenge enough in one legislative district.

A power struggle

The Arizona Legislature can put any initiative on the ballot by a simple majority vote in both chambers. SCR 1015 would allow legislators to maintain this power while making it more difficult for citizens to direct what should go on the ballot.

In 1998, Arizona voters tried to protect citizen-led ballot initiatives by passing a ballot measure that prohibited the Legislature from amending or repealing voter-approved ballot initiatives and referendums unless the three-fourths of the Legislature votes to do so.

Republicans have pushed back by spearheading other restrictions on citizen initiatives in Arizona, including ones that allow courts to disqualify signatures for minor technical defects, disallow campaigns from paying petition circulators on a per-signature basis, and require judges to disqualify signatures collected by a petitioner who failed to appear in court if subpoenaed during a challenge.

Through citizen-led initiatives, voters legalized recreational marijuana in 2020 and increased the minimum wage in 2016—two things the Republican-majority Legislature chose not to do themselves.

Arizonans have the power to initiate ballot measures—something residents of only 26 states can do—and SCR 1015 would significantly curb that power.