June 10, 2019
by Jenna Bentley
Elections are a critical function of democracy. However, a rash of deceitful practices has infected Arizona’s ballot initiatives, threatening the integrity of the state’s electoral process. Thankfully, a new law signed last week by Governor Doug Ducey provides for reforms that will root out fraud in ballot initiative campaigns.
To ensure the electoral process is accurate, it is imperative to have clear and meaningful statues that prevent tampering, fraud, or other criminal acts meant to undermine voters’ intent and produce a different result. Ballot initiatives, which fundamentally alter a state’s policies, are no different in importance than general elections in this regard.
To put a measure on the ballot in Arizona, a group must collect signatures from Arizona voters who endorse the measure. Currently, convicted felons are barred from signature collection, and anyone wishing to collect signatures must sign an affidavit on each petition sheet swearing to the accuracy and legitimacy of each signature collected. However, the statutes are rarely enforced, and paid out-of-state gatherers are not checked by the Secretary of State. Rather, a third party must bring the challenge against the legitimacy of the gatherer in question, a burdensome responsibility placed on the Arizona voters.
The 2018 Arizona election shows why reforms were so desperately needed. Last summer, California billionaire and progressive activist Tom Steyer flew in thousands of out-of-state signature gatherers to get his extreme renewable energy measure on the Arizona ballot. When groups opposing the measure reviewed the signatures submitted, it was discovered that several signature gatherers were convicted felons, signatures had been forged, signature gatherers had fake names, and other clear signs of fraudulent activity surfaced.These deceitful practices ignore the will of the Arizona voter and result in initiatives that Arizona voters do not want, or which did not actually qualify, going on the ballot if not successfully challenged.
Fortunately, Representative Vince Leach’s SB 1451provides much needed reforms to protect Arizona’s election system. Signed today by Governor Doug Ducey, The Initiative Fraud Act:
- Requires increased documentation for out-of-state paid circulators;
- Prohibits circulators who have been found guilty of fraud, forgery, or any election law within the past 5 years;
- Requires the Arizona Secretary of State to assign a registration number to each circulator to ensure more accurate review;
- Anyone found to have knowingly submitted false information in their registration with the Secretary of State’s office will be found guilty of a class 1 misdemeanor;
- Institutes a tolling period between submission of signatures until challenging deadlines to ensure fair time for groups to verify the accuracy of the signatures.
The Initiative Fraud Actis a common-sense reform that strengthens the will of Arizona voters while curbing fraud, identity theft, and ensuring proper review of the initiative process.
For more information about the Initiative Fraud Act, see the Arizona Free Enterprise Club’s blog here.
Jenna Bentley is the Director of Legislative Affairs for the Goldwater Institute.