Arizona Voting Rights Initiative Will Not Be on the November Ballot

FILE - Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Robert M. Brutinel speaks during oral arguments, in Phoenix on April 20, 2021. The Arizona Supreme Court on Thursday, April 21, 2022, ruled that the state's voters do not have the right to reject a massive income tax cut approved by the Republican-controlled Legislature and Gov, Doug Ducey last year. The order signed by Chief Justice Brutinel does not explain the court's reasoning, saying a full opinion will be released later. (AP Photo/Matt York, File)

By Shahid Meighan

August 31, 2022

A series of court battles reduced the number of eligible petition signatures from more than 475,000 to fewer than 2,000 shy of the required 238,000.

An Arizona voter initiative rolling back Republican-backed election law changes and expanding voting access will not appear on the November ballot.

A judge who initially ruled that the initiative qualified for the ballot revised his decision on Friday. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Joseph Mikitish said the Free and Fair Elections Act did not meet the required number of signatures to make the ballot. 

After showing the Arizona Supreme Court how he came to the decision that the measure could make it to the ballot, Judge Mikitish backtracked and stated that the measure was 1,458 signatures short of the 238,000 it needed. Previously, he said that the initiative had 2,281 extra signatures. 

Lawyers for the initiative urged the Supreme Court to overrule Mikitish’s latest decision, saying it violated the law by allowing challengers to throw out more signatures than allowed. But the high court ruled in favor of Mikitish’s reversal, issuing a final death knell after an on-again off-again series of court rulings.

The Supreme Court’s ruling is the last word in a weeks-long battle between initiative backers and opponents. Critics, led by the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, succeeded in knocking off enough qualifying signatures for the measure to barely fail.

The initiative backers called the legal challenge a continuation of Republican-led efforts to gut Arizona’s initiative process. The state constitution says the people have the right to craft their own laws, but the Legislature and business groups have pushed for changes that make it easier to kick initiatives off the ballot.

“Certain politicians have been intentionally trying to attack the ballot measure process for over a decade to prevent voters from being able to make decisions about Arizona’s future at the ballot box,” the initiative committee said in a statement. “Today’s decision is a continuation of these attacks and reflects an increasingly extreme MAGA agenda.”

The Free and Fair Elections Act aimed to make several changes to existing election laws. Some of the changes would have included guaranteeing ballot privacy, mandating that voters can go to any polling site, and, most importantly for some lawmakers, blocking the Legislature from overturning presidential elections, an avenue Republicans explored following former President Donald Trump’s failed re-election campaign in 2020. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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