close up of dollar money and pink piggy bank

"As a constitutional amendment, it needs 356,467 valid signatures on petition by July 2 to qualify for the November ballot. "

Backers of a bid to ask voters to outlaw high-interest title loans have quit amid the inability to raise the cash they need to get it – and keep it – on the November ballot.

Rodd McLeod, campaign consultant for Arizonans for Fair Lending said the refusal of federal courts to void a law on petition signatures raised the costs beyond what supporters are willing to fund. 

The initiative sought to ask voters to remove the exemption the industry now has from a state law limiting allowable interest to no more than 36 percent a year. Current title loans can carry an annual percentage rate up to 204 percent a year.

Backers needed 237,645 valid signatures by July 2, to put the issue on the general election ballot in November.

But McLeod said the 2014 law actually requires circulators to gather far more as a cushion against signatures being disqualified. 

And even if they do, he said, the law gives foes of the measure new legal tools to try to keep it from ever going to voters.

On paper, the law in question requires paid circulators to register and provide and address where they can be subpoenaed.

What’s crucial, though, is judges are required to throw out all the signatures of any circulator who does not show up in court, regardless of whether there is other evidence showing the signatures themselves are valid and were legally gathered.

So concerned was McLeod’s group it asked a federal judge to void the laws.

In a 19-page ruling last year, Judge Susan Bolton acknowledged the 2014 statute could make it more difficult for those proposing their own laws and constitutional amendments to put their proposals before voters.

But Bolton said challengers did not present enough evidence to show it presents irreparable harm, either to voters or those who hope to propose future ballot measures. 

So, she agreed to allow the law and its hurdles to remain on the books pending a full trial, something unlikely to occur before the deadline for groups like McLeod’s to turn in their signatures.

“We don’t have the money as a campaign to not only gather the extra signatures due to the ones going to get thrown out on these legal technicalities but also to get people into court at the same time’’ to confirm the signatures they gathered. “That’s also costly.’’

Voters may still get to weigh in on the subject of interest limits – but in a quite different way.

A ballot measure being pushed by the National Credit Alliance would overturn virtually all laws now limiting annual interest charges to 36 percent. 

Sean Noble, campaign manager for that group, called it a “stand against socialism.’’

As a constitutional amendment, it needs 356,467 valid signatures on petition by July 2 to qualify for the November ballot.