Citizen’s Initiatives

In Arizona, voters have the power to create public policy through direct democracy. Think of it like running for office, but instead of a candidate, you’re campaigning for a new law or constitutional amendment. Getting a citizen’s initiative on the ballot can be arduous and cost prohibitive, but as a vector for change, it’s unparalleled. The gulf between public sentiment and legislative action on any given issue can be significant, and citizen’s initiatives give voters the chance to advance policy ideas that would otherwise be complete political nonstarters.

On This Page
  1. How Citizen’s Initiatives Work
  2. Ballot Measures in 2022
    1. 2022 Legislative Referrals
    2. 2022 Citizen’s Initiatives

How Citizen’s Initiatives Work

Most Arizona residents have probably been asked to sign enough petitions that we’ve started to tune out the question, “are you registered to vote in Arizona?” from anyone holding a clipboard, but it’s a remarkable fact of our state constitution that by gathering enough signatures to put our ideas on the ballot (and then by winning enough votes) we can create new laws and even new constitutional amendments outside of the standard legislative process.

After filing the appropriate paperwork to begin your campaign, your sole task is to circulate enough petitions so that by the time the deadline to submit them rolls around, you’ll have enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot. For the next election, the deadline will be July 3, 2024. In each cycle, the signature threshold is set at 15% of “qualified electors” for a constitutional amendment, which works out to 383,923 signatures, or 10% to update state statute, which works out to 255,949 signatures. The key here, and the reason petitioners remind you to stay inside the lines, is that many of the signatures you collect will be invalid, so you’ll want to submit your petitions at a very comfortable margin above the threshold.

Up to this point, we’re still only looking at the math, but once your initiative finds any success, that success will be met with aggressive legal challenges. You’ll need to defend the validity of your signatures, the conduct of your petitioners, and even the content and constitutionality of your initiative, all at great financial cost. Most campaigns require millions of dollars to pass through this gauntlet, and even then there's no guarantee of success on Election Day. If your measure is voted down, you’re back to square one.

2022 Ballot Measures

In the 2022 midterms, Arizona voters were presented with 10 statewide ballot measures. Only two were the result of citizen’s initiatives, while the rest were referred to the ballot by the legislature. Despite the clear obstacles and challenges inherent to running a successful citizen’s initiative campaign, three of the ballot measures referred by the legislature included some kind of new restriction on the process of direct democracy.

2022 Legislative Referrals to Limit Citizen’s Initiatives

Prop 128 – Failed

Prop 129 – Passed

Prop 132 – Passed

Citizen’s Initiatives on the Ballot in 2022

Prop 209 – Passed

Prop 211 – Passed