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KJZZ Explains: Citizen Initiatives — What Do You Want And When Do You Want It?

By Katie Campbell, Kathy Ritchie
Published: Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 10:16am
Updated: Tuesday, May 19, 2020 - 10:20am
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Welcome to “Super Tuesdays” from KJZZ Explains. We break down political buzzwords and how they relate to Arizona.

We’re looking ahead to November. There is still an election ahead, and there’s still a very important role you play in your state government. 

You won’t just be casting votes for president and state officials in this general election. You’ll also be asked to decide on a variety of citizen initiatives.

Those are part of a process that is at the heart of our state Constitution. They reflect a belief in direct democracy. 

Citizens can circulate petitions to win voters’ approval to essentially amend our laws. Each proposal has to gather a set number of signatures to qualify for the ballot. That signature threshold is higher for amendments to the state Constitution.

If a proposal gets enough signatures, it gets a vote. And if a majority of voters approve, it becomes safe-guarded under the Voter Protection Act. That means the Legislature can’t simply undo what the citizens decided. 

This year there’s an effort to raise some people’s taxes to provide more money for public education and the return of a proposal to legalize marijuana for recreational use — a similar initiative was rejected by voters in 2016. 

Each of those initiatives would need more than 230,000 signatures just to get on the ballot. And considering the divisive nature of those issues, they’ll also likely need strong turnout at the polls if they do qualify. 

Thanks to COVID-19, it’s unclear which campaigns will be successful. Signature gatherers usually rely on public events and popular spaces to get the signatures they need. But that’s become harder than usual.

We’ll know which initiatives are successful this year by July.

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