In 2022, voters in Arizona will decide a ballot measure to allow the state legislature to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives in cases where the Arizona Supreme Court or U.S. Supreme Court declare that a portion of the ballot initiative is unconstitutional or illegal. In Arizona, the legislature must propose a ballot measure to amend or repeal voter-approved ballot initiatives. Initiatives often include severability clauses, meaning that if the courts declare a provision to be unconstitutional, other provisions can remain valid.
Arizona is one of two states—the other being California—that prohibits the legislature from repealing or amending a ballot initiative unless voters approve the changes through a new ballot measure. Arizona has an exception for changes that further an initiative’s purpose. Arizona adopted this restriction on legislative alterations in 1996 with the approval of Proposition 105, also known as the Voter Protection Act.
An example of an Arizona ballot initiative that has been partially, but not entirely, struck down is Proposition 200 (1998). It established the Arizona Citizens Clean Election Commission (CCEC) and a public campaign finance system. The U.S. Supreme Court struck down a provision of Proposition 200 that triggered matching funds to candidates based on their opponent’s spending. The remainder of the law stayed in effect.
The constitutional amendment was approved along party lines in the Senate and House. Republicans hold one-member majorities in each chamber. The amendment needed 16 votes in the state Senate, and it received the support of the 16 Senate Republicans. It needed 31 votes in the state House, and it received the support of the 31 House Republicans. No Democrats voted for the proposal. State Rep. Athena Salman (D) said the 2022 amendment is “a very sneaky way to undermine the Voter Protection Act without actually having to repeal the Voter Protection Act.” Rep. Mark Finchem (R) stated, “It’s true that we have certain things in law that were referred to the voters or that the voters established. I have a real struggle with believing that that pre-empts any future ask to the voters for clarity and precision.”
Arizona voters approved 60% (44 of 73) of the amendments that the legislature put on the ballot since 1985. The legislature referred an average of 4 amendments to the ballot between 1985 and 2020, although legislators put no amendments on the ballot in 2020. As of June 25, legislators had referred one constitutional and one statutory change to the 2022 ballot. They can refer additional measures during the remainder of this year’s legislative session and the 2022 legislative session. Arizonans also have the power to initiate legislation as either a state statute or a constitutional amendment or repeal legislation via veto referendum. Signatures for 2022 ballot initiatives are due July 8, 2022.