Today Secretary of State Reagan issued new guidance to groups circulating an initiative petition to prevent potential confusion during the 2018 election cycle.
Paid circulators always have been required under A.R.S. § 19-118 to register with the Secretary of State prior to circulating a statewide ballot initiative petition. Prior to 2017, the legal definition of “paid circulator” under this statute was synonymous with then-existing industry practice: paid circulators were persons who were compensated to circulate petitions on a per signature basis. Failure to register rendered those petition sheets invalid.
The Secretary of State’s duty to confirm registration status was triggered by the circulator’s self-disclosure on the petition sheet itself. Pursuant to A.R.S. § 19-102, each petition sheet must contain a checkbox for “paid circulator” and “volunteer.” Those are the only two options and at least one box must be selected. If “paid circulator” was checked, this triggered the Secretary of State’s duty to verify whether the circulator was registered. And if the Secretary of State found no corresponding registration, she had a duty to invalidate the petition sheet pursuant to A.R.S. § 19-121.01.
In 2017, the Legislature criminalized the practice of paying circulators on a per-signature basis. In response, much of the petition circulation industry switched to paying circulators on an hourly basis (or some similar compensation method that does not involve payment by the signature). These circulators are not technically required to register with Secretary of State because they no longer meet the strict definition of a “paid circulator,” and many no doubt declined to register accordingly. However, all circulators are still required to check “paid circulator” or “volunteer” on the face of a petition sheet.
Clearly, any circulators compensated on an hourly basis aren’t “volunteers” and thus it would be inappropriate to check this box. But if they select “paid circulator,” they will trigger the Secretary of State duty to check for a circulator registration (and potentially invalidate the petition sheet) despite the fact registration is not required in the first place. These circulators therefore could find themselves in an impossible situation.
Considering these circumstances, the Secretary of State’s office has issued the following guidance when circulators are compensated on an hourly basis:
1. Concurrent with filing the initiative with the Secretary of State’s office, the political committee sponsoring the initiative should email a spreadsheet identifying which petition circulators are compensated on an hourly basis. This spreadsheet should, if possible, also identify the county of circulation for each circulator and the box in which the circulator’s petitions will be located upon filing with the Secretary of State.
2. Circulators should check the “paid circulator” box on the face of the petition sheet, but also write “paid hourly” or “hourly” in the top right corner of the sheet, shown here by a red rectangle:
The “paid circulator” box must be checked prior to circulating the petition sheet in accordance with A.R.S. § 19-102(D), but the additional “paid hourly” or “hourly” notation may be added by the circulator after signatures were obtained (but before the petition is filed with the Secretary of State’s office).
If an initiative group follows this guidance, the Secretary of State’s office will not invalidate the applicable petition sheets for failure to register as paid circulators pursuant to A.R.S. § 19-118.
Please contact the Secretary of State’s office for further details on this process.
 It is the Secretary of State’s position that adding the “paid hourly” or “hourly” notation to the petition sheet does not violate the principle of “strict compliance” embodied in A.R.S. § 19-101.01.