Arizona voters will try put to put to rest on Election Day what has been one of the most contentious issues in the state: whether Arizona should officially celebrate Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

Arizona, Montana and New Hampshire have not made King's birthday a state holiday.

Former governor Bruce Babbitt (D) did what the Arizona legislature had repeatedly failed to do: he created the King holiday by executive order before he left office in 1986.

But his successor, Evan Mecham (R), rescinded the order after he took office in January 1987. Mecham issued his own executive order, setting aside the third Sunday in January as an unpaid holiday to honor King.

After Mecham was impeached and removed from office in 1988, the state legislature created a paid King holiday in October 1989 but did away with the state's paid Columbus Day holiday to avoid the cost of giving state workers an additional paid day off.

The legislation, however, was never enacted because Mecham joined with Italian Americans in a petition drive to put the issue before voters. Lawmakers, hoping to avoid a public vote, passed a second bill in May, 1990 establishing the King holiday and keeping Columbus Day.

But that did not end the matter. Another citizen's group initiated another petition drive. Consequently, voters will decide on Nov. 6 on Measure 301, creating King Day but eliminating a paid Columbus Day, and Measure 302 establishing King Day and keeping Columbus day. Mecham is urging a "no" vote on both, which would leave the state with Columbus Day and no official observance of King's birthday.

Measure 302, adopting the King holiday, has the support of religious and sports leaders as well as the Democratic and Republican gubernatorial nominees and polls show it is likely to pass.