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Prop. 112 margin forces state-mandated recount

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PHOENIX -- Election officials throughout the state are going to have to start counting all over again -- at least for one ballot measure.

Final results late Saturday show Proposition 112 failing -- but only with a 123-vote edge. Arizona law requires a recount of any statewide ballot measure where the margin is 200 or less.

This final tally comes after Maricopa County finished counting the last 11,814 ballots on Saturday.

Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said there are just a handful of strays left, those where people wrote in names of candidates. But those ballots, which already were counted for other races and ballot measures, won't affect the outcome of Proposition 112.

Hanging in the balance is whether those who want to propose their own statutes and constitutional amendments will have two months less than they now do. The deadline is currently four months before the general election, which falls in early July. But state and county election officials said that doesn't always give them the time to verify the signatures.

A bid to change state law requires that petitions be signed by the equivalent of at least 10 percent of those who voted in the last statewide election. That currently translates out to more than 150,000.

Constitutional amendments require 15 percent, or more than 230,000.

Verifying signatures is only part of the problem. Foes of various measures have mounted various legal challenges once petitions were filed. That forces courts to act quickly to resolve the matter in time for ballots to be printed.

Proposition 112 would move that deadline up by two months, to early May.

The apparent failure comes despite the fact the measure had bipartisan support.

Osborne said recounts in Arizona involve only re-feeding the ballots through the optical scanning equipment.

There is no requirement for a hand count of the more than 1.75 million ballots that were cast. But she said the process, which will follow the formal certification that the results are within 200 votes, still takes time. Another proposed change which had tallies running close, though, is now definitely headed for defeat -- again.

When Arizona became a state, the federal government gave it close to 11 million acres of land to be held in trust, with the proceeds of sale or lease to be used largely to benefit public schools. About 9.2 million acres are left.

The state Constitution says lands can be sold only to the highest bidder.

Proposition 110 would have allowed land swaps with the federal government without an auction if the ultimate deal was designed to preserve open space around military bases. This could pave the way for three-way deals, with private developers willing to give up their land near the bases in exchange for more desirable parcels elsewhere.

This year's tally marks at least the seventh time voters have rejected such a plan.

Prior efforts were opposed by environmental groups who feared the system was geared to give developers access to choice pieces of land. But they supported this year's effort, saying there were sufficient safeguards in the measure to prevent abuse.

That didn't help: The tally Saturday night showed it behind by more than 9,000 votes.

The final vote also confirmed that Arizona voters did approve a law allowing patients with a recommendation from their doctors to purchase up to 2 1/2 ounces of marijuana every two weeks from non-profit dispensaries. Supporters outnumbered foes by about 4,300 votes.

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