Judge rules voters can have the last word on school vouchers

Appeal is anticipated

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services via Arizona Capitol Times

A judge has refused to block voters from getting the last word on whether they want to expand a system of vouchers that uses public funds to send children to private and parochial schools.

In a six-page ruling made public Tuesday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Margaret Mahoney ruled that the law in effect last year when the referendum was filed did not give individuals the right to challenge petition drives. She pointed out it was repealed in 2015.

Mahoney acknowledged that lawmakers did vote to reinstate the individual challenge law last year. And that change took effect on Aug. 9, 2017.

But the judge pointed out that the petitions demanding a public vote were turned in on Aug. 8. Quite simply, Mahoney said, there is no legal basis for the challenge.

The judge also rejected the contention by voucher supporters that some of the petitions had to be thrown out — along with all the signatures on them — because the required signature of the person notarizing the document does not precisely match the name on the notary’s official stamp. Mahoney said that’s not the way the law reads.

And Mahoney also rejected the contention that some petition circulators made false statements to would-be signers about what the voucher expansion law would do if allowed to take effect, including that it would be the rich who benefit. The judge said voucher supporters, in filing suit, did not identify who made such statements, to whom they were made, how they were false, and whether the person who heard the comments relied on the statements in signing the petitions.

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