- Associated Press - Monday, February 16, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - The House Elections Committee advanced several bills affecting voters Monday, including a proposal that would block voter initiatives, referendums and recalls for minor errors.

If a date is wrong or a signature doesn’t match, then it doesn’t count under the provisions of the bill, which was approved in a 3-2 vote. The bill now goes to a floor debate after a routine constitutional review.

The legislation modifies requirements for voter initiatives, referendums and recalls, and requires voters to “strictly comply” with them. The bill’s language echoes a provision in an Arizona election law that was halted in 2014 after opponents collected more than 146,000 signatures to put the law on hold until it appears on the next statewide ballot.

Rep. J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, voted for House Bill 2407, saying it would clarify a process for voters to follow and eliminate ambiguity on behalf of county recorders.

“What this bill is outlining is what strict compliance looks like so there is no ambiguity.”

Two Democrats voted against the bill: Rep. Jonathan Larkin, from Glendale, who called it a “voter-suppression” bill, and Rep. Ken Clark, from Phoenix, who said the bill would disqualify legitimate signatures.

“You have folks, as they age, their signature looks different. Under strict compliance they could have this signature thrown out,” Clark said.

The committee also advanced several other bills.

- House Bill 2138 moves the primary elections dates from September to an earlier date, though members left the exact date up for consideration as it moves to the House floor.

- House Bill 2589 lets the secretary of state create an electronic filing system for campaign finance reports.

- House Bill 2081, as amended, creates a process to randomly audit $5 qualifying cash contributions for Clean Elections candidates.

- House Bill 2534 requires county recorders to notify early or provisional ballot voters if there is an error such as a missing signature, and gives them an opportunity to correct the mistake.

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