Pederson v. Bennett
Center Attorneys, Tim Hogan and Joy Herr-Cardillo, as well as several other Arizona attorneys, have teamed up with Center Board Member (and former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice) Stanley Feldman to bring a mandamus action against Secretary of State Ken Bennett after he refused to complete the validation process for the Quality Education and Jobs Citizens’ Initiative petitions that contained 290,849 signatures –the most ever collected in the state's history for a citizens' statutory initiative.
Bennett rejected the petitions because of a minor mix up in the paperwork that was filed with the Secretary of State back when the initiative petitions were first registered. At the time it submitted the original application to circulate the initiative, the initiative’s organizing committee inadvertently submitted a paper copy of the measure that was an earlier draft version of the initiative text. The Committee also submitted an electronic version of the initiative that was the correct, final version, and all of the petitions that were circulated and signed by the voters contained the final version of the measure. Seizing on this minor discrepancy between the paper and electronic copies, Bennett has claimed that the initiative proponents failed to comply with the Arizona statute regarding initiatives. The initiative proponents, however, dispute that contention. But even if he is correct, Arizona law only requires “substantial compliance” in the case of initiatives, and that standard is easily met here.
Moreover, the statute that Bennett relies on cannot “trump” the Arizona Constitution, which expressly requires the Secretary of State to place a measure on the ballot when citizens comply with the requirements spelled out in that document. The Constitution simply requires that : 1) the initiative is addressed to the Secretary of State; 2) petition signers have confirmed that they are a qualified electors and have included their address and date of signature; 3) each petition is attached to a full and correct copy of the title and text of the initiative; and 4) petition circulators have verified under oath that they witnessed each individual sign the petition. Thus, the campaign fully complied with all of the constitutional requirements.
Because it is an election matter, the case is being heard on an expedited basis. A hearing on the matter was held on July 18, 2012 at 9:30 before Maricopa County Presiding Civil Judge Robert Oberbillig who ruled from the bench in the plaintiffs' favor. (A copy of the minute entry order is attached below.) The judge agreed with the plaintiffs that they had satisfied all of the constitutional requirements to qualify for the ballot. The Secretary of State has not yet indicated whether he intends to appeal the decision. If you would like to learn more about the initiative itself, you can read about it here. http://www.qualityeducationandjobs.com/
Photo courtesy of Quality Education and Jobs Committee