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Thursday, June 24, 2004

Groups to turn over signatures for immigration measure

Groups to turn over signatures for immigration measure

06-24) 01:59 PDT PHOENIX (AP) --

Whether an immigration initiative will qualify for the Arizona ballot remained in doubt Wednesday as national groups said they will turn over nearly 100,000 voter signatures to the campaign.

The Washington-based Federation for American Immigration Reform said it and other groups will turn over signatures collected by paid gatherers to the Protect Arizona Now campaign's leaders on Tuesday, two days before the July 1 deadline to turn in signatures to qualify initiatives for the Nov. 2 general election.

The initiative campaign's leader previously estimated its volunteers had collected up to 30,000 signatures.

It takes 122,612 voter signatures to qualify an initiative for the ballot, but initiative organizers generally like to have a substantial signatures in case many are invalid.

"We stand a good chance of qualifying," said Rick Oltman, FAIR's western field director. "I don't want to be misleading. I feel that the collection of signatures is going well and that if we work real hard in the remaining week, we just might have a chance."

Kathy McKee, PAN's director, could not be reached for comment after FAIR's announcement.

The initiative is aimed at preventing illegal immigrants from receiving government services not required by the federal government and it also would require proof of U-S citizenship to register to vote.

FAIR and other groups paid $400,000 to a California political consulting firm to collect signatures after the Protect Arizona Now group's volunteer effort faltered.

The initiative has caused controversy since it was first proposed in July 2003, with backers saying it would curb lawbreaking by illegal immigrants while opponents saying it is rooted in racism.

A judge last week ordered PAN's former treasurer, Phoenix businessman Rusty Childress, to turn over records, money and signature petitions to McKee, and McKee said Tuesday she had received some material.

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