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Open Primary Initiative Goes Before Judge

A judge hears arguments today on whether a proposal to create an open primary system can appear on the November ballot. But the lawsuits -- and there are two of them -- are creating problems.

Secretary of State Ken Bennett ruled there are insufficient valid signatures on petitions. Proponents sued, contending Maricopa County officials improperly disqualified some of the names. But then a group which opposes the measure went to court with a series of charges, including that some petitions were circulated by felons. Judge John Rea has promised a ruling on Friday. Whoever loses is likely to seek Supreme Court review. But Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said Friday is when ballots go to the printer.

"This election for the general is not on November 6th," Osborne said. "It's on September 22nd because that's the day we have to be at the post office with more than 3,000 military and overseas ballots. And they all have to have the same information."

Osborne's concern is that Rea may rule the measure stays off the ballot -- but the Supreme Court next week says otherwise. Osborne said she'll likely seek a court order on Friday to prepare the ballots -- with the initiative language included.

"It's always much, much easier to take an issue off the ballot than to put one on," Osborne said. "It's almost impossible to put one on. The court is well aware of our printing deadline."

Osborne said if the high court rules the signatures fall short she can tell the printer to leave a blank space or, if too late for that, simply not count votes cast for or against the measure.

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