Another fine mess created by the Arizona Legislature

By Linda Bentley | September 3, 2008

Judge BurkeJudge in quandary over right to challenge and ballot-printing deadline
PHOENIX – Last Thursday, Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Edward O. Burke granted the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative (AzCRI), otherwise known as Proposition 104, a temporary restraining order to halt the printing of ballots and publicity pamphlets for Arizona’s Nov. 4 General Election.

The Arizona Secretary of State’s office issued its official determination last week that AzCRI did not qualify for the ballot and sent the ballots and publicity pamphlets off to be printed, which AzCRI Executive Director Max McPhail says was in violation of state statute that entitles all petition filers 10 days to challenge the SOS’s signature count.

The AzCRI was introduced with the assistance of the American Civil Rights Institute (ACRI), a national civil rights organization created to educate the public on the harms of racial and gender preferences.

WardConnerlyEstablished by Ward Connerly and Dusty Rhodes (President of National Review) in 1996, ACRI backed initiatives passed overwhelmingly in California, Washington, Florida and Michigan.

This year, ACRI’s goal was to assist getting initiatives on the ballots in Arizona, Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska, and Oklahoma.

ACRI is committed to achieving equal opportunity for everyone and, as a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to educating the public on this issue, it is funded through private donations from individuals and major charitable institutions and foundations.

ACRI also seeks to dispel the “race matters” mentality embraced by civic leaders under the guise of “diversity,” with the belief civil rights are individual rights and government policies should not advocate group rights over individual rights.

In order to have Proposition 104 placed on the November ballot, a total of 218,545 valid signatures were required. AzCRI turned in 334,658 petition signatures.

Counties were required to verify a random sample of 5 percent of the signatures, which meant a total of 16,280 signatures were sent to the county recorders to verify. In order to make the ballot, Prop. 104 would need to receive a 67.12 percent validity rate, or a total of 10,928 valid signatures.

However, numerous signatures rejected for a variety of reasons were found to be valid.
After reviewing 1,432 of the 6,064 signatures determined by Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell to be purportedly invalid, AzCRI, with only limited access to the Maricopa County voter data base, found 465 were actually valid legal signatures of qualified voters.
That’s an error rate of 31.8 percent by Purcell’s office.

McPhail said, “Over 330,000 people signed the Arizona Civil Rights Initiative petition. They deserve to have their signatures accurately counted.”

While acknowledging the tight deadlines county clerks are under to report their results, McPhail said, “The counties made numerous errors and marked 38,000 valid signatures as invalid. It is understandable in their haste they have made errors. However, those errors are unacceptable, the voters have a right to be heard.”

Two evidentiary hearings were held by Burke on Thursday, one at 3 p.m. and another at 6 p.m., using audio/video recordings in lieu of having a court reporter and courtroom clerk present.

During the afternoon session, Burke heard oral arguments regarding the scheduling to resolve the matter, the printing deadline for ballots, language in the temporary restraining order and whether intervening parties should be allowed to testify.

After listening to the evening hearing’s testimony, Burke stated, “The court is of the opinion that the plaintiffs have not been allowed the opportunity to fully present their case,” and ordered that the plaintiffs be allowed access to two of the County Recorder computers over the weekend for research and further preparation and continued the hearing to Sept. 3 at 9:30 a.m.

However, McPhail concluded it would not be sufficient time to verify that many signatures with access to only two computers and AzCRI decided to withdraw its complaint.

Burke found himself in a quandary of having to either infringe on the rights of those submitting petitions or hold up the printing of ballots and pamphlets, which, according to Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne’s testimony, would delay voting by an equal number of days printing is delayed, and wondered how the legislature managed to create such a situation.

McPhail, disappointed the initiative would not be placed on the November ballot, said, “The Arizona Civil Rights Initiative would make Arizona a place of equal opportunity for all, instead of a state that uses discrimination as a tool to create ‘diversity.’ Achieving ‘diversity’ should never be an excuse to discriminate.”

Top photo: Judge Edward O. Burke
Lower photo: Ward Connerly
Courtesy photos