Grand Canyon Institute files federal court brief to support online gathering of signatures for November ballot initiatives

May 4, 2020

For Immediate Release

May 4, 2020

View release online

View amicus curiae brief online



Grand Canyon Institute files federal court brief

to support online gathering of signatures for

November ballot initiatives 

The Grand Canyon Institute (GCI) has submitted a ‘friend of the court’ brief to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in support of a lawsuit filed by ballot initiatives wanting to gather petition signatures online rather than sending petition circulators door to door.

GCI conducted a statistical analysis of confirmed daily cases of COVID-19 in Arizona to demonstrate that requiring ballot initiatives to gather signatures in person could result in the exponential growth of the coronavirus. Currently, the state’s online E-Qual website used for gathering signatures is reserved for candidates only and its use is prohibited by ballot initiatives.

Gov. Ducey’s extension of the stay-at-home order until May 15th affirmed the need to take precautions in preventing the spread of the virus.

COVID-19 is preventing Arizona’s citizens from safely exercising their right enshrined in the state constitution to decide on laws at the ballot box due to the need for social distancing and the ban on large gatherings where signatures could be gathered. Attorney General Brnovich is leading the case in opposition to online signature gathering for citizen initiatives.

The basic reproduction number of a virus, designated as ‘R0’, is the rate at which an infectious disease spreads under normal circumstances. Health experts and decision makers responsible for public health issues use statistical analysis to determine the R0 of an outbreak to thereby determine the infectious risk posed. An R0 above 1 – indicating that each infected person infects more than one other person – reflects an increasing spread of the disease.  An R0 that is higher than 1 reflects potential exponential growth of the infection. For example, at an R0 of 2 and a 5-day time from contraction to quarantine, a single infected person will cause the infections of 127 others by the end of one month.

Cases of COVID-19 in Arizona are increasing at a rate of growth that is hovering at a level of R=1 where spread of the virus has been contained by Governor Ducey’s stay-at-home order,” said Dave Wells, Ph.D., Research Director for the Grand Canyon Institute.

“However, increased societal interaction could result in an exponential increase in the disease. Arizona already has in place a secure online system for taking petition signatures which would allow citizens to exercise their constitutional right to sign ballot measure petitions while protecting public health.”

GCI’s brief also addressed U.S. District Court Judge Dominic Lanza’s finding that ‘reasonably diligent’ campaign committees start gathering signatures in time to gather sufficient numbers to make the election ballot. GCI looked at all citizen initiatives that submitted signatures proposing constitutional amendments from 2012 to 2018 and found that “it is not uncommon for petitions reflecting citizen initiatives to be filed in February or March of the election year.”

The standard to be applied is ‘reasonable diligence’ that takes into account the ordinary obstacles that one could expect to encounter during the race to secure sufficient signatures before a deadline.  The COVID-19 pandemic is no ordinary obstacle. 

A hearing date for the appeal has yet to be set.

Read GCI’s amicus curiae brief.

For more information:
Dave Wells, Research Director, 602-595-1025, Ext. 2

Dave Wells holds a doctorate in Political Economy and Public Policy and is the Research Director for the Grand Canyon Institute, a centrist fiscal policy think tank founded in 2011. 


The Grand Canyon Institute, a 501(c) 3 nonprofit organization, is a centrist think tank led by a bipartisan group of former state lawmakers, economists, community leaders and academicians. The Grand Canyon Institute serves as an independent voice reflecting a pragmatic approach to addressing economic, fiscal, budgetary and taxation issues confronting Arizona.

Grand Canyon Institute

P.O. Box 1008

Phoenix, Arizona 85001-1008