Tucson defeats the Arizona Legislature in Special Action challenge to the consolidated elections bill

Posted by AzBlueMeanie:

Last year, Rep. Michelle Ugenti (R-Scottsdale) sponsored HB 2826 (consolidated election dates; political subdivisions), a bill providing for the consolidation of elections in the fall of even numbered years only. The law will apply to elections in 2014 and thereafter.

On Monday, Judge James E. Marner of the Pima County Superior Court entered his ruling after trial of this matter to the court in
City of Tucson v. State of Arizona et al. (Case No.
C20126272). Judge Marner ruled in favor of the Cities of Tucson and Phoenix, and against the Arizona legislature. The 10 page ruling is
Here.

Highlights from the Ruling as to Conclusions of Law:

A.R.S. § 16-204, as amended, conflicts with the city charters of Tucson and Phoenix by requiring the Cities to hold their candidate elections on even-numbered years rather than on odd-numbered years . . .

The Cities' decision of when to schedule candidate elections for mayor and Council elections is a matter of local concern. This includes the decision of whether to align with Federal/State/County elections on even-numbered years or to hold elections on odd-numbered years.

[L]egislative declarations are entitled to deference by this court when considering the statute's application to the matter before [it]. Nonetheless, because the statute conflicts with charter city provisions created by th Cities pursuant to the Arizona Constitution, the resulting question of constitutional interpretation mandates that this Court determine whether the Arizona Constitution gives Tucson and Phoenix, as charter cities, the autonomy to choose whether to hold candidate elections on odd-numbered years as a method its citizens use to elect its leaders.

The Cities' interpretation of its charters is given some weight in the determining the nature and extent of the conflict between the charters and A.R.S. § 16-204, as amended.

A.R.S. § 16-204 is internally inconsistent with the legislative declaration in Paragraph (A). Requiring only candidate elections to be aligned but not requiring propositions/ballot measures and special taxing districts elections to be aligned undermines the claim of a statewide concern of decreasing costs and increasing voter turnout. The state's claim of statewide concern is further weakened by the existence of legislation that was passed shortly after the amendment in question which controls candidate elections in common council towns that may, depending on when the town was formed, require elections to be held in odd-numbered years. The constitutional requirement that gubernatorial elections be held on non-Presidential election years with historically lower voter turnout further undermines the state's claim. That aligning only certain elections to reduce costs and increase voter turnout is a matter of statewide concern.

In light of these inconsistencies, the Court finds that A.R.S. § 16-204, as amended, does not involve a matter of paramount statewide concern that would warrant displacing specific city charter provisions which determine the method and manner by which the Cities conduct their candidate elections, including the decision to hold candidate elections on even-numbered years.

For both Cities, there is an insufficient showing of a causal connection between the alignment requirements of A.R.S. § 16-204, as amended, and the claim of a statewide concern to increase voter turnout for aligned but unconsolidated elections.

For both Cities, there is an insufficient showing of a causal connection between the alignment requirements of A.R.S. § 16-204, as amended, and the claim to decrease costs associated with municipal elections. The evidence presented indicated that there would be no significant cost savings for either Tucson or Phoenix whether they held aligned/unconsolidated or aligned/consolidated elections.

The alignment provision in A.R.S. § 16-204, as amended, is a significant intrusion upon the autonomy of Tucson and Phoenix. [Details omitted].

A.R.S. § 16-204, as amended, presents a significant burden on the Cities. Implementing many of the charter amendment would require the Cities to hold elections to obtain voter approval. The costs and the logistical demands involved in planning and conducting these elections would be borne entirely by the Cities.

Per Article 13, Section 2 of the Arizona Constitution, the election for Tucson city candidates as provided by the Tucson City Charter supersedes the provisions of A.R.S. § 16-204, as amended.

Per Article 13, Section 2 of the Arizona Constitution, the election for Phoenix city candidates as provided by the Phoenix City Charter supersedes the provisions of A.R.S. § 16-204, as amended.

[The] Cities' request for a permanent injunction enjoining the State of Arizona from requiring the City of Tucson and the City of Phoenix to comply with the candidate election scheduling requirements of A.R.S. § 16-204, as amended, is GRANTED.

 How this will effect the other lawsuit in this matter recently filed is yet to be determined:

In a related legal matter, our lawless legislature in the final hours of the session "logrolled"
two unrelated matters, home owners association rules and some election
reforms — which, among other things, required cities to conform their
election dates to the state elections calendar — to correct the bill
passed last year, HB 2826, which is going to trial today
in Pima County Superior Court
— into a single bill. This violates
Arizona's constitutional "single-subject" rule. Bill
on elections, HOAs is targeted
:

The suit takes aim at Senate Bill 1454,
which passed in the legislative session’s closing rush. The legislation
tacked on a number of changes to homeowners-association procedures to a
bill dealing with numerous election-related measures.
Combining different topics in a bill — a tactic known as logrolling —
violates the Constitution’s single-subject rule, argued attorney Tim
Hogan of the Arizona Center for Law in the Public Interest. He filed the
suit in Maricopa County Superior Court on behalf of two men active in
homeowners associations.

The bill’s second constitutional misstep
is its title, which does not accurately capture the topics addressed in
the bill, the suit states. The title refers to elections and does not
address homeowners-association changes.

While the bill should not be dealing with
the two topics, its title nonetheless should at least accurately
reflect its contents, Hogan said.

We'll see what happens next.

One response to “Tucson defeats the Arizona Legislature in Special Action challenge to the consolidated elections bill

  1. Brian Clymer

    Thanks for posting the decision so we can read it ourselves.