Criminal penalties for petition signature gatherers in Arizona are unconstitutional, court rules

Plaintiff Petition Partners states on its website it collected 3 million signatures in 2020./petition partners.com

By Mary Jo Pitzl | Arizona Republic

A state law that imposes criminal sanctions on petition passers who get paid based on how many signatures they gather is unconstitutional, the state Court of Appeals ruled Tuesday.

The decision overturns part of a law that critics viewed as an impediment to citizens’ ability to make policy at the ballot box. But it leaves in place the ban on paying petition passers based on how many signatures they gather; a judge still could strike out any signatures that were gathered that way.

The case was brought by Petition Partners, the firm hired by the Invest in Ed Coalition in 2020 to gather enough voter signatures to qualify an income-tax increase to benefit education for the ballot.

The firm argued its First Amendment rights were violated by a state law that makes payment based on the number of signatures gathered subject to a Class 1 misdemeanor. Such a misdemeanor carries a sentence of up to six months in jail, plus fines.

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