Arizona allows initiatives and referendums, as well as legislative measures and measures placed on the ballot by special commission. The initiative signature requirement is 10 percent for statutory measures and 15 percent for constitutional amendments. The initiative, referendum, and recall were part of the state's constitution from its entry into the Union in 1912.

The first initiative went before the voters in 1912. It proposed granting women the right to vote, and was approved with 68 percent in favor. Two years later, a total of 15 initiatives qualified for the Arizona ballot, the most in a single year for the state. Organized labor that year was successful in passing four initiatives: one to prohibit blacklisting of union members; a second establishing an "old age and mothers' pension"; a third establishing a state government contract system, printing plant, and banking system; and a fourth requiring businesses to limit employment of non-citizens. Voters passed a fifth initiative barring the governor and legislature from amending or repealing initiatives.

The legislature responded by proposing a constitutional amendment to make it harder to pass initiatives. The Arizona Federation of Labor waged a campaign against the measure, and voters defeated it by a narrow margin in 1916.

Arizona government reforms passed by voter initiative include changes in reapportionment (1918 and 1932); changes in the court system (1960 and 1974); creation of the voter registration system known as "Motor Voter" (1982) that allows applicants for driver's license renewal to simultaneously register to vote; and campaign finance reform (1986 and 1998). In 1988, the voters adopted an initiative that made English the official language, and in 1992 they adopted term limits for state legislators.

Since 1992 several other major initiatives have passed in the state including the banning of cockfighting in 1998 and in 2000 the requirement that all public school instruction be conducted in English. Also in 2000, the voters of Arizona defeated an attempt by the state legislature to require a two-thirds vote of the people before any animal protection initiative could be adopted. This legislative assault on the process was in retaliation to the success of the animal protection movement in the state - however, the voters would have nothing to do with it.

In 2006, Arizona was the busiest state in the country with 19 measures, including 10 initiatives. The subjects were a microcosm of the national landscape. The ballot contained a marriage amendment (Prop 107, rejected), an eminent domain measure (Prop 207, approved), a proposal to increase the minimum wage (Prop 202, approved), competing anti-smoking measures (Props 201, 206, the first approved and the second rejected), and competing land conservation measures (Props 105, 106, both failed). There was also a cluster of issues placed on the ballot by the legislature focusing on illegal immigration. Prop 300 proposed to deny state services to illegal aliens, Prop 100 proposed to deny them bail in certain circumstances, Prop 102 prohibited them from receiving punitive damages in lawsuits, and Prop 103 declared English the state's official language. All four were approved. Two somewhat unusual initiatives were also on the Arizona ballot. Prop 200, which failed, would have awarded $1 million to a random voter each general election as a way to increase turnout. Prop 204, which passed, required farmers to provide pregnant pigs and calves a certain minimal amount of living space.

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