Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The Arizona Capitol Times (subscription required) reports, Court says “Top Two” should be on November ballot:
A Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled today that an initiative to overhaul the state’s primary system has enough valid signatures to go on the November ballot.
Judge John Rea found that 577 signatures earlier disqualified by the Maricopa County Recorder’s Office were actually valid.
The “Top Two’’ initiative had been disqualified by the Secretary of State’s Office because of a lack of valid signatures.
Proponents of the measure, known officially as the “Open Elections/Open Government Act,” tracked down many of the people who had signed the petitions and demonstrated that their signatures were legitimate.
That changed the invalidity rate in a sample that had been used to reject the initiative. As a result, Rea concluded that the initiative actually exceeded the number of required valid signatures to put the initiative on the ballot by more than 6,000.
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Rea also ordered election officials to include the initiative in the publicity pamphlet for the November ballot, which describes proposals to be decided in the general election.
He said advocates for the “Open Elections/Open Government Act” persuasively demonstrated that the 577 signatures disqualified by the Maricopa County Recorder were valid.
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In his ruling, Rea noted that some signatures were disqualified because of an invalid date: They did not contain month, date and year.
“However, the statute directs the recorder to disqualify a signature if ‘no date of signing is provided’,” Rea said. “From context and other clues, the Plaintiffs showed persuasively that the disqualified signatures were made on the appropriate dates.”
The judge’s ruling in this case also affected a separate lawsuit against the initiative that critics had filed. The second lawsuit sought to invalidate signatures that were gathered by individuals who allegedly have felony convictions, and by another person who didn’t sign the circulator affidavit.
Under Arizona laws, only qualified voters may collect signatures and felons whose civil rights haven’t been restored are not eligible to vote.
The judge concluded that two of the circulators do have felony convictions and the omission of a circulator’s signature is a “fundamental defect” that questions the validity of signatures.
These fatal flaws eliminated more than 2,000 signatures.
But Rea said since the initiative’s backers have proven in the companion lawsuit that they exceeded the number of required signatures by more than 6,000, invalidating 2,000 still means enough signatures were gathered to put the measure on the ballot.
The initiative needed 259,213 valid signatures qualify.
An appeal of the case is likely.
The Court's order deals with a timing issue. Judge to decide Friday if open primary measure will be on ballot :
[T]here needs to be an order to have the text sent to the printer Friday include what would be Proposition 121.
Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said she would need such an order to ensure that voters could weigh in on the measure if the high court ultimately decides it is entitled to be on the ballot. And she said the order would create no harm -- assuming she get a final Supreme Court order this coming week.
"It's always much, much easier to take an issue off the ballot than to put it one on,'' she told Capitol Media Services.
Osborne said it is necessary to send the ballots to the printer Friday laid out with everything included. She said if the court ultimately decides that the petition drive fell short, the printer can be instructed to pull out that measure, leaving a blank space.
The reverse, she said, is not true.
"This election ... is not on Nov. 6,'' she said.
"It's on Sept. 22 because that's the day we have to be at the post office with more than 3,000 mliitary and overseas ballots,'' Osborne explained. More to the point, all the ballots printed, for everyone, "have to have the same information.''
Stay tuned for the appeal.