Arizona Eagletarian

Arizona Eagletarian

Saturday, June 22, 2013

What will it take to get a referendum on the ballot?

This evening on Facebook, a friend posed the following:
Why does it take only 86,405 signatures to get the anti-Medicaid referendum on the ballot but more than 330,000 signatures to get Joe Arpaio recalled?
So, as my manner is, I went about looking for the answer. Here's what I found.

First, calculation of the number of signatures required to force the Maricopa County Sheriff into a recall election is determined by Arizona Revised Statutes § 19-201 A.
Every public officer holding an elective office, either by election, appointment or retention, is subject to recall from such office by the qualified electors of the electoral district from which candidates are elected to that office. Such electoral district may include the whole state. A number of qualified electors equaling twenty-five per cent of the number of votes cast at the last preceding general election for all the candidates for the office held by the officer, even if the officer was not elected at that election, divided by the number of offices that were being filled at that election, by recall petition, may demand the officer's recall. (emphasis added)
The total number of votes cast by all voters for the office of Maricopa County Sheriff in the November 2012 general election was 1,342,221. Twenty-five percent of that number is 335,555.25.


News sources/columnists, including Laurie Roberts, have reported that the number of signatures required to get the Medicaid restoration bill put on hold until the 2014 general election (in other words, successfully refer the question to Arizona voters) is 86,405.

That number is derived from the state Constitution, Article 4, Part 1, Section 1 subsection (1):
The second of these reserved powers is the referendum. Under this power the legislature, or five per centum of the qualified electors, may order the submission to the people at the polls of any measure, or item, section, or part of any measure, enacted by the legislature, except laws immediately necessary for the preservation of the public peace, health, or safety, or for the support and maintenance of the departments of the state government and state institutions... (emphasis added)
The number of qualified electors (active registered voters) in Arizona as of the last totals published by the Secretary of State is 3,225,517. Five percent of that number is 161,276.

However, Donna Gratehouse, publisher of Democratic Diva called my attention to subsection (7) which says:
Number of qualified electors. The whole number of votes cast for all candidates for governor at the general election last preceding the filing of any initiative or referendum petition on a state or county measure shall be the basis on which the number of qualified electors required to sign such petition shall be computed.
According to the official canvass for the 2010 general election, the total votes cast for all candidates for governor was 1,728,081. Five percent of that number is 86,404.05.


So, Roberts' column for Saturday (June 22) suggests that Republicans likely will hope the referendum effort seeking to block the Medicaid restoration fails. She notes, reasonably so, that the effort will be:
It’s a chance for the right wingers who control the Arizona Republican Party to show us what they’re made of – whether they have what it takes to sabotage their own party, not to mention innocent people whose lives may well stand in the balance.
My guess is they don’t. But it won’t be from lack of trying.
The newly formed United Republican Alliance of Principled Conservatives today begins circulating petitions aimed at blocking nearly 300,000 low-income Arizonans from joining the state’s Medicaid program and kicking another 63,000 people off the program at year’s end.
The group will need 86,405 voter signatures by Sept. 11 to block Medicaid expansion until voters can decide the issue in November 2014. 
Mohave County Republican Party Chairman Ron Gould, who is heading up the referendum campaign with ex-Rep. Frank Antenori, acknowledges that the group doesn’t have the money to pay for petition circulators. But he predicts they’ll succeed using volunteers, many of them party operatives who are experienced at collecting signatures.
Notably, both Ron Gould and Frank Antenori are former members of the Arizona Senate. And both have been known, at times, to try to prove they are big time kooks.

Roberts interviewed Chuck Coughlin, Gov. Brewer's front man on the Medicaid restoration effort this year. He said,
“This is the segment of our party that is just angry and bitter and hates Obama and all things Obama and doesn’t even want to listen to the rational argument as to why this is a good idea …,” he said. “It constitutes about 25 to 30 percent of the core Republican Party and they just don’t have the manpower and the legs to make it happen.”

A number of other factors may be lining up to provide good opportunities for Democrats to win back statewide offices and more seats in the legislature. Of course, Gould and Antenori's effort, if successful will almost certainly boost Democratic fortunes in 2014. Additionally, the potential for a marijuana decriminalization measure and a referendum on HB2305 to make the ballot can also provide pretty significant boosts.


  1. It is a midterm election, President Obama and Obamacare are at all time popularity lows, and the Republican base is irate at the governor and pro-expansion legislators. Look for Rs to pick up two seats in the Senate and three in the House and for a shift to the right, as the expansionists either do not run for reelection or lose in the primary.

    State Representative John Kavanagh

    1. Your hubris knows no bounds, does it John? We shall see what we shall see.

    2. @ John hang onto that mentality and you keep speaking like so many old, white men because it does nothing but work against you. You are so delusional and in denial about the changing demographics. You and you ilk are becoming an endangered species.

  2. Someone needed to match yours to give the blog post balance.