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Flaws seen in Medicaid ballot push

July 24, 2013
Arizona Republic
Mary K. Reinhart

Organizers of a petition drive to refer Medicaid expansion to the November 2014 ballot have made significant errors in their paperwork that could doom the effort, attorneys for pro-Medicaid forces say.

Kory Langhofer, representing the pro-expansion Restoring Arizona, wrote to Secretary of State Ken Bennett this week urging him to get involved. Supporters of the anti-expansion group, United Republican Alliance of Principled Conservatives, or URAPC, should know that their efforts may be for nothing, he wrote.

“If URAPC’s paperwork errors ensure that URAPC cannot access the statewide ballot in Arizona, volunteers are entitled to be made aware of those defects before wasting any more of their time,” Langhofer said in the letter. “In preparing the referendum application and the sample petition, URAPC made amateurish mistakes in violation of basic Arizona election laws.”

Bennett was out of state and unavailable for comment, but spokesman Matt Roberts said Wednesday that the office would not get involved.

“These things fall out of jurisdiction of the Secretary of State’s Office,” Roberts said. “These would be for courts to decide.”

One of the problems Langhofer cites is that the referendum application does not include the full text of House Bill 2010, which contains dozens of health- and welfare-related policy changes, only the provisions that broaden Medicaid eligibility and allow the state to impose an assessment on hospitals to help pay for it. State law requires referendum applications to include “a full and correct copy of the title and text of the measure” being referred.

Langhofer also identifies four problems with the petitions themselves, including superfluous, confusing language.

“As a result of these contradictions and imprecisions, potential signers face a nearly impossible task in deciphering the petition and identifying the legislative provisions that URAPC is attempting to refer to the ballot,” Langhofer said.

Ron Gould, a former Republican senator helping lead the petition drive, said the letter shows that expansion supporters are afraid the law will be put on hold and that they’re trying to discourage petition gatherers. He said he’s not surprised that an attorney hired by Restoring Arizona is finding problems with the petitions.

“If I’m paying him to come up with a flaw, he’s going to come up with a flaw,” Gould said. “I’m not going to sweat it. If they really thought there was a problem, they’d go to court.”

Gould has said he expects to be sued, and the Goldwater Institute has agreed to defend the group in court.

The URAPC has until Sept. 11 to collect 86,405 valid signatures from registered Arizona voters to put Medicaid expansion on the November 2014 ballot. If they turn in enough signatures in September, the law will be put on hold until the election.

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