Monthly Archives: July 2012

AZSOS Appeals Lower Court Ruling Regarding Sales Tax Initiative

Phoenix, AZ – Citing the need for judicial clarity and the potential for voter confusion, Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett has filed an appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court challenging the ruling which orders the Quality Education and Jobs Initiative to be placed on November’s general election ballot.

Earlier this month, the Secretary of State’s office was unable to accept the ballot measure because the political committee circulated text which was different from the application originally filed with the office.

“Our office is extremely concerned with the impact the trial court’s decision could have on future ballot measures,” said Secretary Bennett.  “Essentially, the court ruled that a committee can file an initiative with our office and circulate something significantly different.  In this particular case, the difference is over $650 million in how tax dollars are allocated.  If this ruling were left unchallenged, what would be the point of our prefiling process?  How do election officers administer initiatives with two different versions?   

“Our office’s procedures are guided by the precise letter of the law and by decades of historical practice. The failure of the initiative committee to circulate the full and correct version attached to its application ensured that this matter was going to be ultimately decided in the state’s highest court. 

“We recognize courts have been reluctant to hinder the will of voters regardless of statutory and constitutional requirements.  But the lower court’s assertion our office should have made a change to an official filing after months of petition circulation would have drawn litigation from the initiative’s opponents and fails to recognize the realities of administering elections. 

“Despite my view that these petitions are not in proper form, I directed my staff to process these signatures as we would any other ballot measure filed with our office.  Recognizing that the decision would likely be challenged, I want to be sure that voters are not denied the ability to vote on the measure if the courts disagreed.  Supporters and opponents of the initiative have strongly held views on the outcome of this appeal, but our mandate is simple:  Follow the law.  Our efforts must be focused on the sanctity of our electoral process and it must be protected.

“It’s our hope that the Supreme Court can provide some clarification to avoid voter uncertainty and confusion.

The Secretary of State’s office has hired former State Elections Director Joe Kanefield to join with the Attorney General’s office in arguing the case before the Supreme Court. 

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Our Statement of Facts on the Sales Tax Increase Initiative

We filed this statement of facts with the court last Friday.

Pedersen_v_Bennett_SOF

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The Real Story on the Sales Tax Initiative

I read with interest an editorial appearing in the Arizona Daily Star on July 10 titled “Bennett wrong to reject petitions for 1-cent tax,” and feel that I must respond since it seems the facts are being so twisted from what really happened.

To begin, I share the passion to support education in our state. I believe we have a responsibility to educate our children in a safe, positive and accountable environment.

We also have to follow state law, which clearly outlines the steps Arizona’s citizens must take to place an initiative on the ballot. The main claim in the editorial is that our office erred in determining the official version of the initiative.

The paper version is the official version, and the organization that sponsored this initiative knows it. They are trying to cover their unfortunate error by now saying an electronic “courtesy copy” on a computer disk was the official filing.

When they gave us the disk, one of our most experienced staff members told them that we do not accept the filing on disk and that the paper version is the official version. She stamped each of the 14 pages and the application form with our receipt stamp and then gave them a copy of the stamped pages as their receipt.

Most important, she wrote the serial number (I-16-2012) assigned to the initiative on the front page of the application. That number, she explained, has to appear on each signature petition sheet, which the campaign correctly did.

The important point here is that the serial number was only given to them on the paper version. We never opened the computer disk and put it in our file only at their request as a “courtesy copy.” Their legal briefings now claiming the opposite are disingenuous at best.

Although not heavily referenced in this editorial, the sponsoring organization has also argued that the difference between the versions is “hypertechnical.” The extra two paragraphs added to the official version change the way the money is distributed by at least hundreds of millions, perhaps billions of dollars in the first 15 to 20 years of the tax. Less money goes to K-12 education and more goes to fund university scholarships and infrastructure projects. We couldn’t see that as “hypertechnical.”

The Arizona Constitution says the petition sheets have to be attached to a “full and correct copy” of the title and text of the initiative. Over the next few weeks, a Superior Court judge will decide whether the advocates for this permanent sales-tax increase have met the requirements in state law. In the meantime, our office continues its work to process the petition sheets. If the judge rules that the initiative can be placed on the ballot, our office will complete our work and place the measure on the ballot. If not, the responsibility for its collapse falls squarely on those who failed to comply with the simplest of requirements.

Judge for yourself.

Here is a link to the original application:  http://www.azsos.gov/election/2012/general/ballotmeasuretext/I-17-2012.pdf

Here is the missing section:

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Supreme Court Rejects Stay

The United States Supreme Court has denied Arizona’s request for a stay from the 9th Circuit Court’s ruling that federal voter-registration law supersedes Arizona’s voter registration requirements.  Arizona filed the request in advance of the forthcoming appeal to the ruling in which the 9th Circuit struck down Arizona’s requirement that residents provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote on the federal form. 

The court fight stems back to 2004 when Arizona voters passed Proposition 200 which would help ensure that only US citizens vote in elections.

Those registering to vote in Arizona are required to prove citizenship by providing one of the following documents: a driver’s license, passport, birth certificate, tribal identification or naturalization certification number.  Voters seeking to register online must provide a driver’s license number, where eligibility is verified through Arizona’s motor vehicle system.

Last week’s disappointing action by the Supreme Court seemingly flies in the face of the text of the NVRA which uses the term ‘citizen’ repeatedly.  Arizonans clearly believe that people should provide proof of citizenship when they register to vote.

There isn’t a corner of this state where people are not concerned with voter fraud and opposition to the simple act of providing proof that you are legally eligible to participate in our elections is hard to fathom.  We look forward to the day when we’ll make our case for fair and fraud free elections to the Supreme Court.  Until then, we await the mandate from the 9th Circuit and will be working with the 15 counties as to a practical application.

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