Leibsohn v. Hobbs – 9/20/2022

January 18, 2023

Arizona Supreme Court holds that otherwise noncompliant signatures for an initiative petition will not be disqualified when the Secretary of State’s registration process prevented compliance.

A petition circulator company collected the required number of signatures to qualify an initiative for the ballot.  A citizen challenged the number of signatures arguing that many of them were not valid because (1) A.R.S. 19-118(B)(1) requires the circulator to list the unit number in a multi-unit residence and (2) whether petition circulators must submit different affidavits for each petition they intend to circulate.  The trial court rejected these arguments and the citizen appealed. 

The Arizona Supreme Court affirmed.  The Court first considered whether the statute required the petition circulators to list the voter’s unit as part of the residence address.  Applying the traditional tools of statutory construction, the Arizona Supreme Court held that the statute did not require the unit number to be listed as part of the residence.  The Court relied on the fact that many other statutes distinguished between a residential address and a mailing addresses, and this one did not.

The Court then considered whether a petition circulator must submit a different affidavit for each petition they intend to circulate.  The Court held that the statute does require different affidavits for each petition that a circulator intends to submit.  But the Court nevertheless permitted the signatures to be counted because the Secretary of State’s office did not permit petition circulators to submit multiple affidavits.  The Court explained that disqualifying the signatures under these circumstances would “unreasonably hinder or restrict” the constitutionally guaranteed right to engage in the initiative process.

Justice Timmer authored the opinion for the unanimous Court.

Disclosure: Osborn Maledon attorneys participated in this case.

Posted by: John Bullock