Strict Compliance, Substantial Compliance, and Referendum Petitions in Arizona

In Ross v. Bennett, the Arizona Supreme Court held that recall petitions must “substantially comply” with constitutional and statutory requirements. Although the only issue before the court was whether the test for recall petitions should be a “substantial compliance” standard, the court’s reasoning suggests that the “strict compliance” standard, which requires absolute compliance with all constitutional and statutory requirements, should still be applied to referendum petitions. In this Note, I argue that the strict compliance standard is an inappropriate standard for evaluating referendum petitions. Instead, the court should apply the substantial compliance standard to referendum petitions, which ensures that otherwise valid petitions will not be void for failure to comply with some technical requirement that does not confuse or deceive electors. This standard not only reflects Arizona’s respect for direct democracy, but also recognizes the procedural safeguards that already prevent abuse of the referendum process.