Pro-voucher lawyers say referendum petition identified non-existent legislative session – Arizona Capitol Times

Save Our Schools Arizona spokeswoman Dawn Penich-Thacker addresses a crowd of volunteers and reporters after submitting more than 110,000 signatures to refer school voucher legislation to the 2018 ballot. The signatures were enough to put the legislation temporarily on hold on Aug. 8. (Photo by Katie Campbell/Arizona Capitol Times)

Supporters of universal school vouchers filed suit Friday in a bid to keep a referendum on the legislation from ever getting to the ballot.

The lawsuit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court contends that some of the people who circulated petitions to force a public vote did not comply with state elections law. That includes whether they registered as paid circulators and whether they were felons who are not permitted to circulate petitions.

If a judge agrees, that could disqualify all the signatures they gathered.

Whether that would be enough to quash the referendum depends on how many valid signatures remain. Backers turned in more than 111,000 on Tuesday; they need 75,321 of these to be found valid to give voters the last word on legislation to allow any student to get a voucher of public funds to attend private or parochial schools.

But voucher supporters already are working on a backup plan that, if successful, would void all the signatures and make the referendum drive disappear.

In a letter Friday to state Elections Director Eric Spencer, attorneys Thomas Basile and Tim La Sota, who represent interests seeking the expansion of the voucher program, contend all petitions are invalid because they said the law they seek to refer to voters was enacted during the “fifty-third session of the legislature.” But, technically speaking, SB1431 was approved during “first regular session of the fifty-third legislature,” with each “legislature” taking up two years.

There will be two regular sessions of the fifty-third legislature – in 2017 and in 2018 – as well as the possibility of one or more special sessions of…

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