Posted on August 13, 2004

Signature Checks Find Enough To Put Immigration Measure On Ballot

AP, Tucson Citizen, Aug. 12

PHOENIX — Random checks conducted by Arizona counties found enough petition signatures to qualify an initiative against illegal immigration on the state’s November ballot, The Associated Press has learned.

A tabulation of signature checks conducted by the 15 counties found an overall failure rate of just under 18 percent, leaving the “Arizona Taxpayer and Citizen Act” with a comfortable cushion of valid signatures from Arizona voters to qualify for the ballot.

The measure proposed by the Protect Arizona Now campaign would require proof of citizenship when registering to vote or when seeking social services. Proponents say the initiative is intended to combat welfare and voter fraud.

All 15 counties have reported the results of their signature checks to the Secretary of State’s Office, but officials said that office is waiting to take official action on the proposition’s ballot eligibility until it receives a mailed copy of results from the last of those counties.

Based on early results from the county-by-county checks, supporters of the initiative previously said they anticipated certification.

The tabulation obtained by the AP showed an overall failure rate of 17.62 percent of the 9,237 signatures checked by the counties. The 9,237 represented 5 percent of the 184,737 total signatures.

The 17.62 percent error rate fails a projected 32,550 of the total 184,737 signatures. That leaves initiative supporters with 152,187 valid signatures, well over the required 122,612.

Since it was first proposed in July 2003, the initiative has caused controversy, with backers saying it would curb lawbreaking by illegal immigrants and opponents saying it is rooted in racism.

An opposition group, the Statue of Liberty Coalition, has said it will launch a campaign against the initiative if it does get on the ballot.

An Arizona State University poll released in July suggests that 74 percent of voters support the Protect Arizona Now initiative.

The poll conducted by television station KAET and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication surveyed 387 registered voters between July 15-18. Those polled were asked if they would vote for or against an initiative that would deny some services to illegal immigrants and require proof of citizenship and identification from voters. The poll had a sampling error of plus or minus 5 percentage points.

If approved by voters, the initiative would require Arizonans to prove their citizenship when registering to vote and show identification when casting a ballot in person.

People applying for services not mandated by the federal government, such as welfare, also would have to prove their identities and eligibility.

State or local government workers who don’t report undocumented immigrants that apply for government services could be charged with a misdemeanor and face up to four months in jail.