State tells judge petition law protects integrity of election process

Hundreds of people who circulated petitions for a clean-energy initiative measure showed up at Maricopa County Superior Court last year after being subpoenaed by foes of the measure,
hoping to knock it off the ballot./Photo courtesy of Maricopa County Superior Court

By Howard Fischer | Capitol Media 

An attorney for the state asked a federal judge Wednesday to uphold a law that challengers say is designed to make it more difficult for people to propose their own laws.

Assistant Attorney General Joseph La Rue acknowledged that the measure requires a judge to throw out all the signatures of paid or out-of-state circulators of initiative petitions if that person does not respond to a subpoena, regardless of whether the signatures gathered are actually valid. La Rue argued, however, that restriction is necessary to protect the integrity of the election process.

But U.S. District Court Judge Susan Bolton questioned why, if such automatic disqualification is necessary, that same provision does not apply when initiative signatures are collected by volunteers who are Arizona residents.

Potentially more significant, the judge pointed out that the concern of legislators about the practices of out-of-state and paid circulators does not seem to extend to petitions for candidates for public office — including themselves.

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