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November 3, 2010

Arizona Voters Shoot Down Prop 109

Defeated by preliminary margin, Prop 109 results demonstrate Arizona voter support for animal protection policies and the right to citizen initiatives

PHOENIX — Voters sent a strong message to the Arizona Legislature on Tuesday by rejecting Proposition 109, a referendum that would have amended the Arizona Constitution to give the legislature “exclusive” authority over wildlife issues while seeking to also forbid citizens from initiating statutory petitions.

“We are grateful to the citizens of Arizona for once again rejecting an attempt by the trophy hunting lobby to block citizen initiatives to protect wildlife,” said Kari Nienstedt, Arizona state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “It’s always better to keep power in the hands of the people, and that’s just what voters did tonight by saying ‘no’ to Prop 109. This is a victory for voters and for wildlife, and a defeat for the NRA and other special interests that don’t trust the judgment of voters.”

Prop 109 was one of 10 measures on the 2010 ballot.  If passed, Prop 109 would have given the Arizona Legislature “exclusive” authority over wildlife issues, disturbing the system that is partially insulated from politics and has been in effect in Arizona for more than 80 years. Prop 109 also would have threatened voter rights regarding the initiative process when it came to inhumane and unethical wildlife treatment.

“Arizona voters spoke loud and clear. They don’t want the Legislature to politicize wildlife policy,” said Stephanie Nichols-Young, chair of Arizonans Against the Power Grab – No on 109. “Prop 109 was a power grab, pure and simple—and the voters of Arizona not only knew it, but clearly opposed it.”

Several former Arizona Game and Fish Commissioners lauded the results, encouraged that the vote will help keep science-based wildlife management in place. “My wife and I hunt and fish each year, and I’m glad voters saw through the shady language and deceptive wording of this referendum so that we could enjoy these wonderful traditions for years to come,” said former Commissioner Tom Woods.

A coalition of organizations across the state provided the foundation for a strong grassroots effort. Funding for the campaign was provided by the Humane Society of the United States, with 230,000 supporters in Arizona. The primary funder among Prop 109 proponents was the National Rifle Association, which persuaded the Legislature to place the referendum on the ballot, and then contributed more than $223,000 in support of the campaign.   

Tempe resident Thomas Hulen, a hunter and self-described conservationist, voted no on Prop 109. “As a longtime hunter, I’m ecstatic that this ridiculous ballot referendum has gone down to defeat,” he said. “There is no threat to hunting and fishing in Arizona, and I’m glad my hunting buddies and other Arizonans who voted ‘no’ realized that.”

Opposition to Prop 109 was widespread including prominent elected officials, community leaders, and organizations such as the Animal Defense League of Arizona, the Sierra Club, and the Humane Society of the United States.  By the end of the campaign, nearly all major news outlets that weighed in on the issue editorialized  against Prop 109 including The Arizona Republic, East Valley Tribune, Tucson Citizen, Tucson Weekly, Arizona Daily Star and The Yuma Sun.

The failure of Prop 109 marks the latest defeat of efforts by special interests to weaken Arizona’s now well-established reputation for supporting animal protection efforts and the right to citizen initiatives. In 2006, Arizona voters approved the Humane Farming initiative. In 2000, Arizona voters overwhelmingly rejected a ballot measure that would have required all wildlife initiatives pass by a two-thirds vote.  In 1998, Arizona voters approved an initiative that banned cockfighting after the Legislature failed to ban the practice and also approved the Voter Protection Act to protect the initiative process. And in 1994, Arizona voters approved a citizen initiative banning the use of leghold traps, again after the Legislature failed to act on similar legislation.     

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Paid for by Arizonans Against the Power Grab – No on 109, with major funding from The Humane Society of the United States and The Fund for Animals, national nonprofits based outside the state, with 230,000 Arizona supporters.

 

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