Arizona signature verification process presents many steps for marijuana initiative

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May 13, 2010

By Kyle Maichle and Al Ortiz

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PHOENIX, Arizona: Verifying signatures in the state of Arizona is no small feat, according to Arizona Secretary of State's office. Although petition drive organizers for the medical marijuana question have appeared to collect enough signatures for ballot consideration, those same signatures must endure a rather meticulous process of verification before gaining ballot access in November.

Under Arizona law, when any initiative campaign turns in their boxes of signatures to the Secretary of State's office, the process of qualifying for ballot access is not complete from the first step. The Secretary of State has 20 business days after receiving the petitions to check the signatures to make sure they are valid. After the state checks the signatures, the Secretary of State must send via fax the petitions to individual counties for their certification, which lasts 15 business days. Signatures of registered voters are checked by election authorities of the counties they reside in.

Matt Benson, a Spokesman for the Arizona Secretary of State told Ballotpedia that their office encourages all campaigns petitioning for ballot access to have their petitions turned in before the July 1, 2010 deadline. Benson said it would "problematic" if petitions come in at the last second citing the extensive process to verifying signatures. As of press time, the medical marijuana question has not been fully qualified for the ballot.

The medical marijuana initiative was the first 2010 ballot hopeful to turn in its signatures out of approximately a dozen initiatives currently being circulated. If sent to the ballot and enacted by voters, the measure would allow the Arizona Department of Health Services to regulate the sale and use of medical marijuana. The measure would also allow qualifying patients and caregivers to purchase the drug from specific, closely watched clinics. Patients would also be protected from arrest and prosecution for using the plant for medicinal purposes. About 250,000 petition signatures were turned in by organizers on April 14, 2010. The signature requirement for initiated state statutes in the state is at least 153,364.

Possible timeline of medical marijuana signature verification:

  • April 14: Date signatures were turned in to Arizona Secretary of State
  • May 13: 20 day deadline for Secretary of State to verify signatures
  • June 4: 15 day county election authorities verification deadline (if signatures were received from Secretary of State on May 13)

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