Supporters of an offer to ask voters to ban securities lending have resigned over the inability to raise the money they need to get it – and keep it – in the November ballot.
Rodd McLeod, campaign consultant for Arizonans for Fair Lending, said federal courts’ refusal to overturn a petition signing law has increased costs beyond the point supporters are willing to fund. And without the money, he told Capitol Media Services, it makes no sense to continue collecting signatures.
The initiative sought to ask voters to remove the exemption now enjoyed by the industry from a state law that limits eligible interest to no more than 36% per year. Outstanding title loans can carry an annual percentage rate up to 204% per annum.
Donors needed 237,645 valid signatures by July 2, 2020 to put the question on the general election ballot that year.
But McLeod said the law, enacted in 2014 by the Republican-controlled legislature, actually requires broadcasters to collect far more than that to avoid signatures being disqualified. And even if they do, he said, the law gives the enemies of measurement new legal tools to try to keep it from going to voters.
On paper, the law in question requires paid distributors to register and provide an address where they can be subpoenaed.
What is crucial, however, is that judges are required to discard all signatures of any distributor who does not appear in court, whether or not there is other evidence showing that the signatures themselves are valid. and were collected legally.
McLeod’s group was so concerned that he asked a federal judge to overturn the laws.
In a 19-page ruling last year, Judge Susan Bolton acknowledged that the 2014 law could make it more difficult for those who propose their own laws and constitutional amendments to present their proposals to voters.
But Bolton said the challengers had not presented enough evidence – at least not yet – to show that leaving it in place presents irreparable harm, either to voters or to those hoping to come up with future ballot measures. . So she has agreed to allow the law and its obstacles to remain on the books pending a full trial, which is unlikely before the deadline for groups like McLeod’s to hand in their signatures.
“We don’t have the money for a campaign not only to collect the additional signatures because of the ones that are going to be rejected on these legal niceties, but also to bring people to court at the same time” to confirm the signatures that ‘they collected. “It’s also expensive.”
In fact, this could be the costliest part, given that anyone who wishes to challenge the legitimacy of an initiative campaign only needs to file a complaint questioning the validity of the signatures, and then issue subpoenas. appear for all paid broadcasters.
McLeod said someone may have collected 1,000 signatures.
“But the person who witnessed your signature, the paid circulator, is not available on a Thursday in August to appear in court in Phoenix because she may be living in Sierra Vista,” he said. he declares. “So your signature is thrown away, your voice is silenced, because of a technicality related to the person who collected the signature.”
McLeod pointed out that lawmakers, in passing the requirement, did not extend it to petitions to nominate candidates, including themselves.
Bolton, in his decision, noted this distinction.
State attorneys responded by citing the Voter Protection Act. This constitutional provision says that once a measure is approved by the ballot box, it cannot be repealed by the legislature but must instead be returned to the voters.
Bolton was skeptical.
“The ‘near permanence’ of an initiative once adopted is more a legal outcome than a compelling government interest in justifying the method chosen (by the state) to induce compliance with subpoenas,” wrote the judge.
Yet none of this was enough for Bolton to grant a motion to bar the state from enforcing the law in the 2020 election.
The challengers have appealed his refusal to enforce the law. But this case will not be heard until April.
Bolton is not the only judge who refused to overturn the law. The Arizona Supreme Court reached a similar conclusion in 2018.
“The law is a reasonable way to promote transparency, to facilitate the judicial process of fact-finding, including compliance with a valid mandatory process, and to mitigate the threat or fraud or other wrongdoing infecting the public. initiative process, ”Judge John Lopez wrote for the court. “This advances the constitutional objective of the initiative process by ensuring the integrity of signature collection by reasonable means.”
Voters can still weigh in on the subject of limits of interest, but in an entirely different way.
A voting measure pushed by the National Credit Alliance would overturn virtually all laws that now limit annual interest charges to 36%. Sean Noble, campaign manager for this group, called it “taking a stand against socialism”.
As a constitutional amendment, it needs 356,467 valid petitioned signatures by July 2 to qualify for the November ballot.