Backers Say Prop. 200 Should Apply To Many Benefits

AP, Nov. 8

Supporters of Proposition 200 who told voters the measure would only affect voter and welfare fraud said Monday they plan to argue in court that the initiative should apply to a broad array of public benefits and services.

Separate arguments filed with the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office by the two largest groups backing the immigration initiative said it would apply only to statutes dealing with elections and welfare. The arguments appeared in voter guides distributed before the election.

But Randy Pullen, chairman of the Yes on Proposition 200 campaign, now says retirement, disability, public housing assistance, post-secondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefits, grants, contracts, loans, drivers’ licenses and hunting licenses are among things that also should be covered.

“It will be argued in court that public benefits will apply more broadly,” Pullen said. “That was what was always intended.”

The initiative requires proof of citizenship when registering to vote and proof of immigration status when obtaining government services not mandated by federal law. Also, government workers face penalties for not reporting illegal immigrants who apply for aid.

Gov. Janet Napolitano plans to declare the measure law after an election canvass Nov. 22.

“Purposely misleading the voters during the initiative process and then during the election process shakes the very foundation of free and fair elections in Arizona,” said Kurt Davis, a member of the No on 200 campaign.

The measure does not specify what benefits are covered, something that had been central to the opponents’ campaign. They argued the measure is flawed because it is not clear who will be affected or how much implementing the initiative will cost.

“We always made the argument that the term ‘public benefit’ being undefined opens it up to a much broader set of circumstances,” said Steve Roman, a spokesman for No on 200.

If the measure ends up in court, as expected, the Attorney General’s Office will defend it.

A spokeswoman for the Attorney General’s Office said the state hasn’t been served with any lawsuits and would not comment on what arguments may be presented if the case does end up in court.

An attorney for Yes on 200 plans to assist with the legal challenges. The group also is talking with two legal foundations to help defend the initiative, said Pullen.

He argues the measure should include state and local public benefits as defined under federal law.

K-12 education and emergency services, which are defined as public benefits but are exempted under federal law, will not be included.

Other things that are not defined as public benefits, and therefore, will not be covered by Proposition 200 include fire and police services, Pullen said.

He maintains the definition of public benefits has been made clear, and it is the opponents who have misled voters.

“The opponents tried to mislead, confuse and scare people with their campaign,” Pullen said.

Opponents have already tried to defeat the measure in court several times. Most recently, they sought an injunction several days before the election that would have thrown out votes in the race.

The group said inaccurate versions of the measure were distributed to voters. Copies that were distributed as campaign literature contained the phrase “state and local public welfare benefits.” The actual wording of the initiative reads “state and local public benefits.”

A judge dismissed that challenge, saying it came too late.

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