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Backers for Arizona initiatives, including marijuana legalization, want to gather signatures online

Hans Pennink/Associated Press

PHOENIX — Backers of four voter initiatives, including marijuana legalization, are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to let them gather qualifying signatures online now that the state is under a stay-at-home order and other restrictions because of the coronavirus outbreak.

The proponents asked the high court Thursday to allow them to use the same electronic system that candidates for state and federal offices now use to gather signatures. They say there's no other safe and effective way for them to get their proposals on the ballot.

They argue that the requirement for initiative backers to collect signatures in person violates the state constitution. That’s because the ability of voters to write their own laws through the initiative process is a fundamental right under the constitution and the current emergency prevents them from doing that. They face a July 2 deadline to collect nearly 238,000 valid signatures from registered voters.

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They also say allowing candidates to use the Secretary of State's secure online signature-collection system but barring citizens seeking to write their own laws from that system violates the constitution's equal protection and due process clauses.

The four initiatives would legalize marijuana, provide new school revenue by raising taxes on high-earning Arizonans, limit school vouchers, and implement criminal justice reform.

Backers of two other initiatives sued in federal court Thursday, making similar constitutional arguments.