Arizona voters appear to have approved a measure that would limit future ballot initiatives to one subject.
Proposition 129 would hold citizen initiatives in Arizona to the single subject rule, meaning laws proposed by citizens may only address one issue per proposition. With the final votes counted, Prop. 129 passed with 55.2% of the vote.
The proposition comes after a legal battle in 2016 over a citizen initiative that included provisions for both a higher state minimum wage and increased paid sick time for workers.
The Arizona Supreme Court ruled then that such initiatives were not beholden to the single subject rule legislators must follow.
Republican Rep. John Kavanagh, who sponsored Prop. 129, said its passage would protect residents from “logrolling,” a practice where two unrelated measures are placed on the same initiative in hopes support for one measure will outweigh public disapproval of the other.
Kavanagh said although as of today, logrolling has not been an issue voters are concerned about, it’s worthwhile to take proactive steps to keep it from happening.
“It’s plausible that two groups that don’t have enough money on their own — because it’s expensive, nowadays you have to pay for petition gatherers usually — to pool their resources and put two disparate subjects on the same initiative,” he said. “It shouldn’t ever happen, and this will ensure that.”
Cathi Herrod, president of Center for Arizona Policy Action, said she believes Proposition 129 eliminates confusion at the ballot box for voters.
“This is a commonsense reform that helps voters become more educated and stops the confusion that comes with unrelated issues being voted on together,” Herrod said in the 2022 election publicity pamphlet, which includes all initiatives that appear on the ballot and arguments for or against each one.
Melinda Iyer, policy director for nonpartisan Civic Engagement Beyond Voting, said the proposition will prevent state residents from making their voices heard.
“It asks voters to cede their own rights away,” she said.
Iyer said the single subject rule made sense for legislators but not for residents, who have significantly fewer resources. She said Prop. 129 is another barrier for residents who want to participate in the lawmaking process.
“A citizens initiative involves literal blood, sweat and tears. Lawmakers know that it’s hard,” Iyer said. “Making it harder for people to make their own laws, we lose our democratic process.”
Kavanagh said he believes the proposition poses no threat to democracy in Arizona, and actually protects voters from possible corruption.
The proposition puts it up to the Arizona Supreme Court to ultimately decide what constitutes a single subject, Kavanagh said. If an initiative is sued for violating the single-subject rule, proponents may defend the initiative in court and they may appeal their case if it loses.
Maricopa County submitted its last vote count earlier this week, the last in the state to be counted. All counties must certify the vote counts by Nov. 28.
Macy Schmidt is a student at the Cronkite School of Jounalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.