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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