Arizona repeals ballot access restriction under pressure from pending referendum

Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signs law to preempts voter referendum
Republican Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer
signs law to preemp voter referendum.

On Feb. 27, Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer signed a bill, HB 2196, to repeal a highly restrictive ballot access law passed in 2013. Republicans championed the 2013 bill to target both their Libertarian and Democratic opponents.

The 2013 bill included a provision making it almost impossible for a member of a ballot-qualified third party to get on his or her party’s primary ballot or to nominate anyone by write-in vote. It also included provisions aimed at depressing Democratic voter turnout.

The 2014 action by the legislature and governor to repeal the 2013 bill was motivated by the success of a referendum petition last fall, which called for repeal of the bill. It had qualified for the ballot this November.

It appears that the Republican-dominated legislature and governor believed that voters would have passed the referendum, thus repealing the law anyway. So they chose to cancel the popular vote.

The Democratic Party strongly opposed the 2013 bill and provided the bulk of the signatures for the referendum. The Libertarian Party played a leading role, providing spokespersons for the referendum.

This was the second major attempt by Arizona Republicans during the last two years to keep Libertarians off the ballot. In 2012, they put an initiative, Prop 121, on the ballot that would have allowed only the candidates with the two highest vote totals in the primaries to qualify for the general election ballot. This was known as “top two,” and voters rejected the measure.