Conservative Lawsuit Ends Pro-Voting Ballot Initiative in Arizona

WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Aug. 26, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled in favor of a conservative organization and disqualified a pro-voting ballot initiative from appearing on the state’s ballot for the November 2022 general election. The decision stems from a lawsuit filed by a conservative organization, the Arizona Free Enterprise Club, challenging Arizonians for Free and Fair Elections’ ballot measure that aimed to safeguard mail-in voting, protect voting access for Indigenous voters and voters with disabilities, expand early voting, improve voter registration, expand voter assistance, prevent the state Legislature from overturning presidential election results and more. Although nearly half a million Arizonians signed the petition to get the measure on the ballot — more than the number of signatures required to surpass the 237,645 signature threshold mandated by Arizona state law — the plaintiffs alleged that there were legal deficiencies associated with a large number of signatures that should disqualify the ballot initiative altogether. Specifically, the plaintiffs argued that many individuals collecting signatures for the petition (“circulators”) were not properly registered with the Arizona secretary of state and that the sheets used by the circulators to collect signatures were invalid under Arizona state law.

Notably, the outcome of this lawsuit changed within a 24-hour timespan, after a trial court judge changed his decision from allowing the ballot initiative to remain on the ballot to ultimately disqualifying it. In fact, one day prior to Friday’s final order from the Arizona Supreme Court disqualifying the ballot measure, a trial court ruled on Aug. 25 that there were enough signatures to keep the measure on the ballot, even after removing 96,237 signatures that were successfully challenged by the plaintiffs and deemed insufficient based on random samples assessed by county recorders. Later that day, the plaintiffs appealed this decision to the Arizona Supreme Court, which issued an order asking the trial court to file an amended judgment demonstrating how it arrived at the numerical calculations of signatures contained in its original judgment released on Aug. 25. However, upon remand (meaning after the case was returned to the lower court for reconsideration), the trial court subsequently released an amended final judgment on Aug. 26 that reversed its original decision, finding that there were not actually enough signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot this November based on a new set of calculations. 

Ultimately, in its most recent order issued on Friday, the Arizona Supreme Court upheld the trial court’s amended judgment directing the secretary of state to “rescind her previously issued determination that the measure is qualified for the November 2022 general election.” This means that the ballot initiative will not appear on the November 2022 ballot.

Read the order here.

Learn more about the case here.