Ballot Initiatives Must Continue During COVID Pandemic
PHOENIX—Today, the League of Women Voters of Arizona filed an amicus brief in Arizonans for Fair Representation v. Hobbs, asking the state to permit online signature collection for ballot petitions via the state’s E-Qual system—the online system candidates for federal and state office use to collect signatures for nominating petitions. Amidst the health concerns of the COVID-19 pandemic, petitions for ballot initiatives cannot rely on traditional signature collection methods without endangering the health of voters and petition circulators.
“The coronavirus pandemic has effectively broken the ballot petition process, a vital mechanism for voters to have a say in their laws,” said Bonnie Saunders, president of the League of Women Voters of Arizona. “We need an online signature collection tool so that voters’ First Amendment rights are not silenced due to this pandemic. Spring is a critical petition collection season, and every week that goes by that collection activities are paused makes it more difficult to advance the issues that matter to Arizonans.”
The case was filed against Secretary of State Katie Hobbs in her official capacity as chief elections officer. On April 6, Secretary Hobbs announced that her office will not contest this lawsuit and that she will inform the court that her office is ready and able to extend use of the E-Qual system to signature collection for citizen initiatives.
“In a time when court hearings and legislative activities are taking place online, voters deserve the same treatment to ensure the continuation of their rights during this pandemic,” said Chris Carson, president of the board of directors of the League of Women Voters of the United States. “Online signature collection will re-open access for voters to petition their government, as is their constitutional right.”
The League’s filing argues that an online signature collection tool is needed to allow petition circulators to collect signatures in a safe manner. The League is represented by Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest in today’s filing.
“It is an honor to represent the League in this case. Arizonans shouldn’t have to choose between exercising their right to participate in democracy and protecting their health and safety,” said Danny Adelman, Executive Director of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. “It would be a travesty for older Arizonans to lose their right to support initiatives they believe in during this pandemic when there is a readily available online system that would enable Arizonans to sign petitions with no person-to-person contact.”
Last week, the League also joined a similar case asking the Arizona state Supreme Court to implement an online signature collection process, leveraging the state law. Decisions are expected within the next few weeks.
Contact: Kayla Vix | 202-809-9668 | [email protected]
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