Arizona Citizens Force Referendum On GOP Voter Suppression Bill, Halting The Bill For Now

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Earlier this year, Arizona’s GOP-controlled legislature passed a bill designed to make it harder for citizens to vote and for candidates to get on the ballot. But Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett (R) announced Tuesday that voting rights activists had collected more than enough signatures to delay the law and force the question onto the November 2014 ballot.

House Bill 2305, passed largely along party lines, made several changes to state election law. Among them were rules making early voting harder for those who have missed the past two federal elections, increasing the number of signatures required to get statewide candidates or voter initiatives on the ballot, and making it a felony for anyone working or volunteering on behalf of a political committee or other organization to deliver mailed ballots to a polling place. The ballot delivery rules could significantly reduce participation by Latino voters, as it takes aim at a practice commonly used in those communities — and could run afoul of the federal Voting Rights Act.

The Protect Your Right to Vote Committee collected about 146,000 signatures on a petition to force the question onto the ballot and the Secretary of State’s office determined an estimated 110,770 of those were valid. This far exceeded the 86,405 signatures required to freeze the law until the voters can weigh-in on the bill next November.

A group supporting the GOP restrictions, called the Stop Voter Fraud Committee, charged that the petition only crossed the requirement threshold due to “fraudulent signatures” and “ineligible” petition circulators. But with the Secretary of State’s decision, the proponents would have to get a court order to stop the referendum at this point.