Ariz. SC explains its decision on defeated renewable energy ballot measure

By Chandra Lye | Dec 11, 2018

PHOENIX (Legal Newsline) – Arizona’s Supreme Court has issued a written explanation of its decision in a case that called into question the validity of a petition regarding a rejected renewable energy ballot measure.

The Supreme Court affirmed the Maricopa County Superior Court decision that denied injunctive relief to the plaintiffs Vince Leach and others in a suit over Proposition 127, Renewable Energy Standards Initiative on the November election ballot, which was defeated. 

"We previously issued orders affirming the trial court’s rulings that the measure qualifies for the ballot," Justice Ann A. Scott Timmer wrote. "We now explain our reasoning for those orders. (At the election, the voters rejected the measure, but that does not affect our pre-election decisions.)"

According to the court opinion written by Timmer and released Dec. 6, the Political Action Committee (PAC) Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona filed an application with the Secretary of state in Arizona Michele Reagan. 

“Upon receipt of the application, the secretary assigned the initiative petition a serial number, which enabled the Committee to gather the 225,963 valid signatures required to qualify the Initiative for the ballot,” Timmer explained.

Timmer noted that county recorders reviewed a sample. 

“After disqualifying some signatures and validating others, they established a 72.37 percent validity rate. The secretary applied that rate to the 454,451 signatures eligible for verification,” the opinion states.

However, the plaintiffs in the case filed complaints claiming county recorders “improperly accepted invalid signatures during their reviews,” the opinion states.

According to the Supreme Court opinion, the initiative measure proposed “a constitutional amendment to ‘require electricity providers to generate at least 50 percent of their annual sales of electricity from renewable energy sources.'”

“Although plaintiffs raised several challenges, the core issue before the court was whether the committee had obtained the 225,963 valid signatures required to place the Initiative on the ballot,” Timmer wrote. 

“The trial court rejected Plaintiffs’ Exhibit C ‘objection 12’ that thousands of signatures should be invalidated because the signatories’ names and addresses did not match the statewide voter registration database,” the court opinion stated.

“The trial court found that 116,237 signatures were subject to objection 12 while plaintiffs contend that the correct number is 179,119. Resolving the dispute is imperative,” Timmer wrote. 

“Plaintiffs do not explain how 179,119 is calculated from the exhibits, which contain more than 30,000 pages, and our cursory review was unenlightening,” she added.

“The trial court’s finding that objection 12 applied to 116,237 signatures was not clearly erroneous,” the opinion stated. “Because invalidating those signatures would not disqualify the initiative from the ballot, we do not further address the merits of objection 12.”

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