Ruling puts Arizona voting access initiative on life support - Albuquerque Journal

Ruling puts Arizona voting access initiative on life support

PHOENIX — An Arizona voter initiative that would expand voting access and roll back tightened election laws passed by the Republican-controlled Legislature and signed by GOP Gov. Doug Ducey was teetering on the edge of failure Friday after a judge disqualified tens of thousands of signatures backers turned in to qualify it for the November ballot.

An attorney representing opponents of the Free and Fair Elections measure said his analysis shows the measure now falling about 10,000 signatures short. Meanwhile, the backers’ attorney said they were still analyzing the complicated ruling and that it wasn’t clear if enough signatures survived. The secretary of state was awaiting final verification of signatures by county recorders.

The ruling released late Thursday night is the third handed down this week in legal challenges to voter initiatives filed in July. The two previous rulings rejected challenges to a measure limiting so-called predatory debt collection and for one that would require people who fund political campaigns through nonprofit groups to be identified.

Opponents of those initiatives are appealing directly to the Arizona Supreme Court which faces an Aug. 25 deadline to issue rulings so election officials can get ballots to the printers. The secretary of state and recorders says signature reviews show the debt measure will make the ballot, while reviews on the other two measures are due next week.

Attorney Korey Langhofer, who represents the pro-business Arizona Free Enterprise Club in the challenge to the election measure, said appeals are likely by his group and the initiative’s backers to Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Mikitish’s ruling.

Mikitish weighed challenges in 32 different areas of registrations, paperwork and eligibility of paid circulators who gathered an estimated 475,000 signatures. The secretary of state rejected about 75,000 of them, leaving nearly 400,000 for a review by county recorders.

The Free Enterprise Club’s challenge has apparently disqualified enough of those for the measure to fall below the nearly 238,000 needed to make the ballot, according to Langhofer’s estimate. But he said he’ll likely appeal some aspects of the ruling allowing some signatures to be counted, and expects the measure’s proponents to appeal the disqualification of some of the petition circulators.

The Free and Fair Elections measure changes a slew of election laws. It specifically blocks the Legislature from overturning the results of presidential elections, an avenue some Republicans explored after former President Donald Trump’s loss in the state in 2020. It also guarantees ballot privacy and bars handing election materials or ballots over to outside groups like the state Senate did after 2020, expands voting access, mandates that all voters can go to any polling site, extends early voting and limits lobbyists ability to wine and dine lawmakers.

The measure also would eliminate the “strict compliance” legal standard that led Mikitish to disqualify many of the petition sheets. The GOP-controlled Legislature required that standard for initiatives in 2017, making it easier to throw them out for relatively minor paperwork errors. That’s because, as Mikitish noted in his ruling, it “requires nearly perfect compliance with constitutional and statutory mandates.”

More Journal Polls

Home » Around the Region » Ruling puts Arizona voting access initiative on life support

Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email

taboola desktop

Amended autopsy: Black man died due to sedative, restraint
ABQnews Seeker
A Black man died after a ... A Black man died after a police encounter in a Denver suburb in 2019 because he was injected with a powerful sedative after being ...
Sheriff: Military recruiter killed after shooting wife
Around the Region
A military recruiter was killed by ... A military recruiter was killed by deputies after authorities say he fatally shot his wife as she was making a domestic violence complaint against ...
6.8 magnitude earthquake shakes Mexico, 2 dead
Around the Region
A powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck ... A powerful magnitude 6.8 earthquake struck Mexico early Thursday, causing at least two deaths, damaging buildings and setting off landslides. The earthquake struck at ...
State previously bused migrants from the border
ABQnews Seeker
Today, there is little, if any, ... Today, there is little, if any, talk of such a solution
2022 Fair's Junior Livestock Show raises over $610k
ABQnews Seeker
More than $610,000 was raised during ... More than $610,000 was raised during the 2022 New Mexico State Fair Junior Livestock sale. Youth involved in 4-H and FFA programs around the ...
Gunman shoots 3 at Texas fair before being shot ...
Around the Region
A gunman shot three people, including ... A gunman shot three people, including two first responders, at the Tri-State Fair & Rodeo in Texas before he was shot and wounded by ...
Strong earthquake shakes Mexico´s Pacific coast; 1 killed
Around the Region
A magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Mexico's ... A magnitude 7.6 earthquake shook Mexico's central Pacific coast on Monday, killing at least one person and setting off a seismic alarm in the ...
3 killed in Colorado midair collision identified
Around the Region
Three people killed after two planes ... Three people killed after two planes collided near Denver were identified Monday as the investigation into what went wrong continued. The victims from Saturday's ...
Phoenix police ID woman's body found in suitcase in ...
Around the Region
A woman's body found in a ... A woman's body found in a suitcase in a desert area north of Phoenix has been identified, authorities said Monday. According to Phoenix police, ...