- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 24, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - The Senate gave initial approval to a bill on Tuesday that increases the number of signatures third-party candidates need to run for office.

The proposal by J.D. Mesnard, R-Chandler, is one in a series of piecemeal legislation similar to a sweeping Arizona election law that the Legislature abandoned last year after opponents took steps to repeal it.

House Bill 2608 allows candidates to gather signatures from their own party, independents and parties not represented on a ballot. It also expands the signature requirements to include a minimum number of these so-called “qualified voters.”

That leaves third-party candidates collecting more signatures relative to their size than Republican and Democratic candidates.

Mesnard said any third party would still require far fewer signatures than either Democrats or Republicans.

On the floor, Sen. Steve Yarbrough, R-Chandler, defended the bill by saying people third party candidates have been able to get on the ballot with an incredibly small number of signatures.

“This simply says that you’re going to look at the people who are eligible to sign your petition, apply the percentage to that, then determine the number of signatures that you would need to have to sign your petition,” he said.

Barry Hess, libertarian activist and former candidate for governor, said residents would lose the ability to vote for candidates outside the two main parties.

“Arizona would lose any potential for getting any candidates that would actually change anything,” Hess said.

Robbie Sherwood, executive director for ProgressNow Arizona, a nonprofit advocacy organization, said the bill will reduce choices for voters.

“It’s about helping Republicans win races,” he said.

Republican lawmakers are pushing two other proposals that echo provisions from the 2013 election law.

House Bill 2407 by Republican Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista, modifies requirements for voter referendums and recalls, and requires voters to strictly comply with them.

Stevens’ bill received approval in the House and is now awaiting approval in the Senate.

Senate Bill 1340 by Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, requires any person who delivers more than ten early ballots provide photo identification for public record.

Shooter’s bill failed to pass, but an amendment to his bill making it a felony for anyone but a family member or candidate to collect early ballots from voters will get a second chance at life in the Arizona House. It has now been revived and is on the appropriations committee agenda Wednesday.


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