On April 2, 2020, four ballot initiative campaigns filed a petition asking the Arizona Supreme Court to allow the campaigns to gather signatures through E-Qual, which is the state’s online signature collection platform, during the coronavirus pandemic. E-Qual is available for federal, statewide, and legislative candidates but not ballot initiatives.
The legal petition stated, “The Novel Coronavirus 2019 (“COVID-19”) pandemic changed, quite literally, everything. … Although this new reality is essential for public health, it is catastrophic to the Initiative Proponents’ exercise of their fundamental constitutional right. … In short, signature gathering will halt, and the Initiative Proponents’ hard work and investment is in jeopardy. … This Petition presents an important legal question of first impression: whether the fundamental constitutional rights of the Initiative Proponents are violated by their exclusion from an online petition signature gathering system maintained by the Secretary in the middle of a public health emergency that severely limits (or outright bars) their ability to otherwise collect initiative petition signatures.”
The four ballot initiative campaigns that filed the petition are:
- Arizonans for Second Chances, Rehabilitation, and Public Safety, which is behind the Criminal Justice Procedures for Offenses Defined as Non-Dangerous Initiative.
- Smart and Safe Arizona, which is behind the Marijuana Legalization Initiative.
- Invest in Education, which is behind the Tax on Incomes Exceeding $250,000 for Teacher Salaries and Schools Initiative.
- Save Our Schools Arizona, which is behind the Limits on Private Education Vouchers Initiative.
The Arizona Republic reported that the office of Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D), who was named as the defendant, was reviewing the petition and could not comment as of April 2.
At least 15 statewide ballot initiative campaigns in eight states had suspended their signature drives by April 2 due to the coronavirus pandemic. No states currently allow ballot initiative campaigns to collect signatures electronically.