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Arizona Chamber Foundation brief examines citizen initiative process, areas for reform

Looks at potential reforms to signature gathering, single-subject rule, votes required for passage


PHOENIX (November 18, 2020)—The Arizona Chamber Foundation today released a new policy brief, “From Idea to Law: Arizona’s Initiative Process.”


The paper surveys Arizona’s citizen initiative process, how it compares to other states with direct democracy systems, shortcomings of the system, and potential reforms and remedies.


The paper assesses the extent to which out-of-state interests influence the Arizona ballot, and whether reforms to the signature gathering process, single-subject rule, and vote thresholds would positively affect direct democracy in Arizona.


  • Signature gathering: Out of the 27 states that currently have some type of initiative process, there are 15 that have some version of a geographic distribution requirement. In Florida, for example, initiative petition signatures must originate from at least half of the state’s 27 congressional districts.


  • Single subject: Arizona statutory propositions can address multiple subjects. This practice, typically referred to as logrolling, means that campaigns can include less popular provisions in the same measure as a more popular provision to try and create sweeping reform. By contrast, constitutional amendment propositions may only address one subject.


  • Vote thresholds for passage: For a statutory change or constitutional amendment to win passage in Arizona via the initiative process, the prevailing side must only get one more ‘yes’ vote than ‘no’ votes. Other states require more than a simple majority. Colorado, for example, requires a prevailing side to get 55% of the vote. In Florida, the prevailing side must get 60% of the vote.


“With Arizona’s citizen initiative process increasingly becoming an attractive venue for out-of-state interests to advance their agenda, it is worth examining whether and how to improve and strengthen the system to ensure it represents the best interests of the state,” Arizona Chamber Foundation Executive Director Garrick Taylor said. “This paper looks at reforms implemented by other states to preserve the integrity of their initiative systems that lawmakers in Arizona might consider. In light of Arizona’s Voter Protection Act, measures adopted by voters are nearly irreversible and, in the case of negative unintended consequences, nearly irreparable. Legislators and voters ought to consider whether such a high-risk form of lawmaking needs improvement.”


The paper is part of the Foundation’s Business Ballot project, which focuses on research related to Arizona initiatives, campaigns, and elections.


The research was conducted by the Chamber Foundation Junior Fellows, a talented group of undergraduates with an interest in public policy research and analysis.


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