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New Public Access To Petition Validation Draws Criticism From Some Groups

State officials have dramatically increased public access to the petition validation process. The policy update was instituted just before petitions for the school voucher referendum were delivered.

According to the Secretary of State’s Office ,about 30 people came to observe on the first day of validation.

Officials with Save Our Schools Arizona, the group that filed the petitions, argued that crowded environment negatively influenced the process.

Over the last few days, Election Services director Eric Spencer has updated the policies, reducing the number of people who can observe at a processing table. Dawn Penich-Thacker, an SOS spokeswoman, says it was a step in the right direction.

"We are growing more confident now that Mr. Spencer has agreed to return to a more normal and orderly process," she added. "We remain concerned about the level of access and influence that the American Federation for Children and Americans For Prosperity have."

Kim Martinez, who is with the American Federation for Children, confirmed that several members of her organization were at the Secretary of State’s Office to observe but insists they are not influencing the process at all.

"So it’s interesting how fair the secretary of state’s office has been with both of us yet how frustrated the SOS people still are," Martinez said. "We think that at this point we think it’s just a mixture of not understanding district compliance rules."

Both sides of this issue add, they are expecting and preparing for legal challenges before the state determines if the referendum will actually make it to the 2018 ballot.

Carrie Jung Senior Field Correspondent, Education Desk Carrie Jung began her public radio career in Albuquerque, N.M., where she fell in love with the diverse cultural scene and unique political environment of the Southwest. Jung has been heard on KJZZ since 2013 when she served as a regular contributor to the Fronteras Desk from KUNM Albuquerque. She covered several major stories there including New Mexico's Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage and Albuquerque's failed voter initiative to ban late-term abortions. Jung has also contributed stories about environmental and Native American issues to NPR's Morning Edition, PRI's The World, Al Jazeera America, WNYC's The Takeaway, and National Native News. She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology and a master's in marketing, both from Clemson University. When Jung isn't producing content for KJZZ she can usually be found buried beneath mounds of fabric and quilting supplies. She recently co-authored a book, "Sweet And Simple Sewing," with her mother and sister, who are fabric designers.