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Initiative filing deadline vote still close

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Initiative filing deadline vote still close

The outcome remained unclear Wednesday for a measure to move up by two months the deadline for submitting citizens' initiatives for the ballot.

Unofficial returns showed "yes" and "no" votes almost even late in the evening.

Citizen groups proposing initiatives to change statutes or the state constitution currently have a deadline of four months before the election. Proposition 112 would change that to six months.

Supporters of Proposition 112 said county officials need the extra two months to make sure initiative petitions are properly verified. They also said four months offers too little time for court challenges to petitions.

Rep. Chad Campbell, D-Phoenix, said he wasn't surprised that the vote was so close because any change to the initiative process is complicated. But he said he remained confident the proposition would pass.

"We all think it will have a positive effect on the initiative process," he said.

There was no organized opposition to the measure, although some have argued that moving up the deadline would make it more difficult to get initiatives on the ballot.

"If it is passed, it is hard to understand why citizens would vote away their initiative rights like that," said Lynne Weaver, chairwoman of a group that supported another measure that failed to get on the ballot. That measure, Proposition 13, would have limited property taxes in Arizona but supporters didn't gather enough signatures.

Weaver said she thinks Proposition 112 will lose when all the votes are in.

"People have a tendency to vote 'no' more often than they vote 'yes' on propositions when they're not exactly sure what they are," she said.

Arizona is one of 24 states allowing citizens' initiatives, which allow individuals and groups to put forward measures that, if approved by voters, amend statutes or the state constitution.

An example of a citizen initiative is this year's Proposition 203, aimed at legalizing medical marijuana use in Arizona.

Initiatives aiming to change statues require valid signatures equivalent to 10 percent of the votes cast in the previous general election. The requirement for proposed constitutional amendments is 15 percent.

This year, 153,365 signatures were needed to change a statute and 230,047 were required to amend the state constitution.

Initiative petitions go to the Secretary of State's Office. If the petitions have the required number of signatures, the state randomly selects 5 percent of the signatures for verification by counties.

It was the third time Arizona voters have decided whether to move up the deadline for filing citizens' initiatives.

In 1984, voters resoundingly defeated a ballot measure that like Proposition 112 proposed moving up the deadline for filing citizens' initiatives to six months before the election. Voters also rejected a 2004 measure that would have set the deadline at seven months before the election.

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