State Capitol News
9:12 am
Mon May 19, 2014

Lawsuit Could Change How Candidates Collect Voter Signatures

A new federal court lawsuit could alter how some candidates get the signatures they need - and do it in a way that could leave voters in all but the state's largest county out of the process. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports.

Credit moveon.org

Candidates for statewide office need to obtain a certain number of signatures based on party registration. For Republicans, that's about 5,600. But, there's a second requirement to get at least one-half of 1% of party registrants in at least 3 counties.

Attorney Kory Langhofer said that means a signature in Maricopa County gets you 1/100 of a percent of the way there, versus a single signature in Graham County, making up 5% of your total. "Because it takes the same amount of energy," Langhofer said, "and the smaller counties are worth more, you will see that a huge percentage of the campaigns go to the small, outlying counties - Graham, Greenlee, Santa Cruz - to satisfy these requirements rather than going to be the Big Three."

Langhofer said that's because signatures in big counties are worth less. But, Secretary of State Ken Bennett said that argument holds no water. "Everyone has to get the same number of total minimum signatures," Bennett said. "And then everyone has to qualify in at least 3 counties. So, it's not as though someone gets on the ballot because they qualified with just a few signatures from the small counties."

And, Bennett said the 3-county requirement is appropriate to ensure that candidates have some minimal level of support beyond their own home stomping grounds. A hearing on the issue is set for the end of the month.