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Three measures to be decided on last day of ballot count

Correction Added

Friday is the last day to count the remaining 78,000 ballots in Arizona, and three propositions are still up for grabs.

Propositions 110, regarding state trust lands, 112, changing the initiative filing deadline, and 203, legalizing medical marijuana, were still close Thursday night, something ASU political science professor Richard Herrera said he didn’t see coming.

“Proposition 110 is one that doesn’t seem like it should be that close,” Herrera said. “This has to do with giving authority to the state to exchange state trust lands, and it’s backed by both conservative and liberal groups.”

Passage of Proposition 110 seems possible with proponents currently leading by about 3,000 votes, according to numbers provided by the Secretary of State’s Office Thursday. The measure would allow the state to exchange state trust land for public lands and prevent development from encroaching on military bases like Luke Air Force Base, according to ASU’s Morrison Institute.

Supporters of the measure, including the Sierra Club and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, contend that Proposition 110 would end a discrepancy between an Arizona court ruling to disallow the practice, and a federal law that permits it.

Opponents, however, say land exchanges have been inequitable in the past.

Herrera said the measure was fairly complicated, which might explain the tight race.

“With complicated issues, voters tend to say no because they’d rather see things stay the same rather than change,” he said.

Morrison Institute spokesman Joe Garcia said there wasn’t really any organized opposition to this measure.

“[Proposition] 110 wasn’t a slam dunk,” he said. “Any time you’re dealing with the transfer or exchange of state lands, especially with recent times when the public has gotten the short end of the stick, I think there was an apprehension from the voters.”

Proponents of Proposition 112 are leading by about 2,000 votes. The measure would require petitions for citizen initiatives to be filed six months prior to the general election, as opposed to the current four months.

Supporters of the measure say this would allow the Secretary of State’s office more time to verify the submitted signatures, while opponents contend it would make it more difficult for citizen-referred initiatives to make it on the ballot.

Garcia said Arizona uses citizen initiatives more than many other states that allow the practice.

“Arizona is unique in its use of propositions as a tool in legislating,” Garcia said. “There are certain things that the voters want to protect and enhance — legislation that they take out of the hands of the Legislature.”

He pointed to First Things First and the state’s Land Conservation Fund, both programs approved by Arizona voters in 2006 and 1998, respectively. Propositions 301 and 302 were put on the ballot by the Legislature and would have eliminated funding for those programs in favor of adding dollars to the state’s general fund. Both were soundly defeated.

“[Voters] were taking the scissors out of the hands of the legislators,” Garcia said. “The environment and education, to Arizonans, are worth protecting.”

Still facing an uncertain future is Proposition 203, a measure to legalize medical marijuana. Those in favor of the law are currently lagging by more than 3,000 votes.

Herrera said the gap is unlikely to shrink.

“Insofar as conservative voters tend to be against increasing the availability of marijuana, I don’t see that gap getting any closer,” Herrera said.

Garcia said there were those who didn’t believe the measure could make up the 3,000 vote difference, and noted that with the closeness of this race, the proposition is likely to reappear in the next few years.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if the next time this comes around, and the language is refined to say under no circumstances will marijuana be used for recreational purposes, it passed,” Garcia said.

Secondary education sophomore Elizabeth Bush grew up in California — a state that legalized medical marijuana more than a decade ago — and said she wanted to see Proposition 203 fail.

“If people are using it now anyway, and if you make it medically available, it’ll be used even more,” Bush said. “It’ll make people dependent on it.”

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