Arizonans, since gaining statehood in 1912, always have had the right to decide issues directly on the ballot or even propose their own laws or remove elected officeholders. As we’ve said before, this seems like a great concept, but it has been misused by special interests, some from out of state, in recent years. Many of the ballot measures do not favor the general public, although many types of legislation require constitutional amendments, and those must be approved by voters even if passed by the Legislature.
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed much of our lives this year, and the election process is no exception. That means that proposition proponents have been severely limited in gathering signatures in public places, both by volunteers and paid circulators. The Arizona Supreme Court ruled last week against an exception that would have allowed the advocates to use the online system called E-Qual to gather signatures, as state candidates were able to do.
Among those seeking the change were backers of recreational marijuana and two education measures, one to limit tuition vouchers and one to impose a new tax only on the highest incomes. Another proposal would change criminal sentencing laws and still another would implement automatic voter registration. Some of the initiative backers said they would abandon their efforts this year, although the marijuana group says it already has enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Proponents of measures that do not make the ballot will be disappointed, but other Arizonans will breathe a sigh of relief that they were given a two-year reprieve from what they see as ideas in bad government. Arizona’s process for doing end runs around elected legislators who debate and compromise will be a lingering issue. However, this year is being made simpler by circumstances of a tragic pandemic that certainly has little to be happy about.