/ Modified sep 11, 2013 6:47 p.m.

Election Law Challengers File Their Petitions

If enough signatures are validated, GOP push for changes to early voting, other issues will be put on hold.




The backers of a measure to prevent election law changes in Arizona say they have enough signatures to get their referendum on the November 2014 ballot.

The Protect Your Right to Vote Committee filed its petitions Wednesday afternoon, aiming to stop changes to the state's election laws, which were set to go into effect this year. If more than 86,405 signatures on petitions are validated, the law will be put on hold until voters can decide next year.

The Secretary of State's Office now begins a six-week signature verification process, leading to a determination of whether the referendum qualifies for the ballot.

The group gathered "well over 100,000 signatures," said Julie Erfle, the committee chairwoman.

The bill that the committee seeks to stop, and eventually defeat, is HB 2305. Among other changes, it would require the permanent early voting list to be purged at certain times and prevent volunteers from turning in ballots for other voters.

Republicans passed the measure, saying it is needed to protect the integrity of the ballot, heading off voter fraud. Democrats opposed it, saying it will have a vote-supression effect on minorities, poor people and the elderly.

Arizona has recorded about a dozen instances of voter fraud in the last two general elections combined. In those elections, 2010 and 2012, more than 4 million votes were cast in the state.

The changes that the Protect Your Right to Vote Committee is trying to overturn are what committee member Phil Lopes called "major attack on the right to voters in this state."

It makes it harder for voters, candidates and those wishing to put future initiatives on the ballot, said Lopes, a Democrat who is a former minority leader of the state House of Representatives.

"It doesn't make any sense to make a crime out of this," he said. It hinders elderly and disabled voters who relied on someone else to transport their early ballot to a place where it could be counted, he said.

"We should be doing things to help people be active and able to vote," Lopes said.

It would also increase the number of signatures needed for third-party candidates to qualify for the ballot, which Lopes said would make it harder for them to run for office.

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