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Two of three measures restricting citizen initiatives poised to pass
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Three proposals seeking to overhaul how citizens get initiatives onto the ballot have met with mixed results, with one overwhelmingly defeated and another well-positioned to win approval, while a third is nursing a narrow lead.
The proposals were referred to the November ballot by Republican lawmakers, and critics have slammed them as blatant attempts to make it more difficult for citizens to govern themselves.
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Proposition 128, which would have empowered legislators to revise, repeal or take the funding away from ballot initiatives whose language has been deemed unconstitutional, was roundly rejected by voters.
With the proposition’s failure, the safeguards in the Voter Protection Act, which voters passed in 1998, remain intact. Under that constitutional provision, legislators are prohibited from editing ballot initiatives unless the changes further the proposal’s original purpose and 75% of both chambers are in agreement.
In contrast, support for a measure limiting citizen initiative ballot measures to a single subject has been strong: 55% of Arizonans have voted to pass Proposition 129.
The measure mandates that ballot initiatives stick to a single subject and be titled in a way that clearly outlines that subject, which means future ballot initiatives would have to contend with a shortened scope. Content that isn’t part of the title would be considered invalid, even if voters approve the measure as a whole.
Supporters of the single-subject requirement argue that legislators themselves are required to keep each of their proposals to one theme. Keeping initiatives clear and concise would also make it easier for voters to understand what they’re approving, and wouldn’t force them to give their votes in support of a portion of the measure they disagree with just to pass it as a whole.
But critics have warned that the restrictions in Prop. 129 will force citizen-led initiatives to address issues piecemeal — an effort which can quickly become cost-prohibitive. For example, an effort underway to protect abortion access via ballot initiative in 2024 expects it will need to put forth as many as six separate initiatives if Prop. 129 passes. Unlike lawmakers, who are paid to propose any number of laws they’d like, critics say that citizen-led groups trying to get a measure on the ballot must shoulder the costs themselves and lobby for signatures from the wider community.
The passage of Proposition 132, which would require a supermajority for voters to pass a new tax, is less certain, with 51% of voters favoring the constitutional amendment as of Wednesday night.
Prop. 132 would require future initiatives raising taxes to win 60% approval to go into effect, a bar that few ballot measures historically clear. For instance, voters in 2006 approved the Smoke Free Arizona Act, which banned smoking in most public spaces and included a 2-cent per pack tax, passed with only 55% support.
There are more than 600,000 ballots across the state yet to be counted, including roughly 360,000 in Maricopa County and another 150,000 in Pima County.
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