Representatives from the Quality Education and Jobs (QEJ) campaign say they've collected more than 260,000 signatures, but are the signatures valid? Perhaps not, if the clerical error recently discovered turns out to be pervasive.
According to the Arizona Capitol Times, petition circulators used ballot language that is different from the actual language on file with the Arizona Secretary of State's (SOS) office.
Actually, two versions of the ballot language were given to the Secretary of State's office - one a printed copy, and one copy on a disc. The official initiative language used is the paper version - which is scanned and published to the AZSOS.gov website. When a complaint was made to the SOS office by the Arizona Tax Research Association (ATRA) on Monday, it was determined that the digital version did not match the paper version.
Specifically, the petition that is being widely circulated contained a couple of paragraphs that were not in paper copy, which is the official copy, filed with the SOS.
Here are the paragraphs that are in the QEJ copy, but missing from the SOS published copy:
(a) TWO THIRDS OF ANY REMAINING MONIES SHALL BE TRANSFERRED TO THE 29 UNIVERSITY SCHOLARSHIP, OPERATIONS AND INFRASTRUCTURE FUND ESTABLISHED 30 PURSUANT TO SECTION 15-1642.01, EXCEPT THAT THE TOTAL TRANSFERS MADE PURSUANT TO THIS PARAGRAPH AND PARAGRAPH 5 OF THIS SUBSECTION SHALL NOT EXCEED TWO HUNDRED FIFTY MILLION DOLLARS IN ANY FISCAL YEAR, UNLESS AN ADDITIONAL 33 AMOUNT IS AVAILABLE AND TRANSFERRED PURSUANT TO PARAGRAPH 8, SUBDIVISION (d) OF THIS SUBSECTION.
(b) ONE THIRD OF ANY REMAINING MONIES SHALL BE TRANSFERRED TO THE STATE INFRASTRUCTURE FUND ESTABLISHED BY SECTION 28-9301, EXCEPT THAT THE TOTAL TRANSFERS MADE PURSUANT TO THIS PARAGRAPH AND PARAGRAPH 6 OF THIS SUBSECTION SHALL NOT EXCEED ONE HUNDRED MILLION DOLLARS IN ANY FISCAL YEAR, UNLESS AN ADDITIONAL AMOUNT IS AVAILABLE AND TRANSFERRED PURSUANT TO PARAGRAPH 8, SUBDIVISION (c) OF THIS SUBSECTION.
8. AFTER TRANSFERRING MONIES PURSUANT TO PARAGRAPHS 1 THROUGH 7 OF
42 THIS SUBSECTION, ANY REMAINING MONIES SHALL BE TRANSFERRED AS FOLLOWS:
Additionally, in the SOS published copy, there are several references to Paragraph 7, subdivision (varies) which in the QEJ version used for petition signatures has been changed to Paragraph 8. This means that many of the earlier references in the SOS copy which occur before the missing text do not match.
You can download the version used by the Quality Education and Jobs website here - the yellow highlights were added by our editorial staff to indicate what is missing from the SOS published version.
The unmarked SOS version can be downloaded here.
To see the SOS version with the Paragraph 7 highlights, download here.
In a press release sent out Tuesday afternoon, the QED campaign states that they have over 260,000 signatures, and are confident that the signatures will meet the requirements set out by law. "Citizens' initiatives are held to a 'substantial compliance' requirement, as opposed to the "strict compliance" requirement applied to referenda."
The ATRA, which opposes the QED initiative, is the organization that discovered the discrepancy; according to the Arizona Capitol Times, ATRA has checked a few of the petitions which were being circulated to see which version of the initiative was attached, and found that
Now, both sides are promising lawsuits either challenging or supporting the signatures on the petition. QED has retained a former Arizona Supreme Court Justice to represent them.
And ATRA President Kevin McCarthy was quoted in the Arizona Capitol Times as promising, "You can rest assured now that there will be some kind of a signature challenge on it."
Here's the press release sent out by the Ann-Eve Pedersen, campaign chair for QED:
Quality Education and Jobs campaign prepares to file signatures to secure November ballot spot
The Quality Education and Jobs campaign today announced it has completed its petition drive and is now preparing to file more than 260,000 signatures in order to place the citizens' initiative on the November ballot.
Ann-Eve Pedersen, campaign chair, noted that more than 500 volunteers supplemented the efforts of paid signature gatherers, allowing the campaign to meet the July 5 deadline with weeks to spare. Signatures were obtained from voters in all 15 Arizona counties.
"Over the next week, we will complete a final validity check, and gather any remaining petitions from volunteers," Pedersen said. "The level of volunteer support bodes well for the campaign's grassroots effort as we move forward, and is a further demonstration that voters believe education needs to be one of Arizona's top priorities."
The Quality Education and Jobs initiative will provide dedicated, permanent revenue to fund education that the Legislature cannot cut. The ballot measure will support education across the spectrum: K-12, charter schools, vocational education, community colleges, universities and GED programs.
The campaign recently discovered that a clerical error was made in a single document filed with the Arizona Secretary of State Ken Bennett on March 9. Complete and accurate language was included on a computer disk filed with the Secretary of State's office that contained the initiative ballot language. The correct language was also attached to the petitions circulated across the state and signed by more than 260,000 voters. As a result, however, of a clerical error made by the office of an attorney who prepared the documents, a printed version of the 11-page, 774- line and 8,967-word initiative mistakenly omitted 7 lines, consisting of 152 words.
The campaign, however, is confident that the will of more than 260,000 voters protected by the state Constitution will be upheld. Citizens' initiatives are held to a "substantial compliance" requirement, as opposed to the "strict compliance" requirement applied to referenda.
"The state Constitution, statutes, case law and legislative and historical intent are on the side of Arizona voters in this situation and protect their right to place a citizens' initiative on the ballot," said Pedersen. "Since the time of statehood, Arizona's Constitution has included the right of citizens to file initiatives as an important element of state government. We are confident that the voters' rights granted and protected by our state's Constitution will be upheld under these circumstances since the Quality Education and Jobs citizens' initiative has substantially complied with the filing requirements," she said.
Nevertheless, the campaign has retained retired Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Stanley Feldman if there is a legal challenge to the petitions.
For more information about the initiative, go to www.qualityeducationandjobs.com