Justia Arizona Supreme Court Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Election Law
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The Supreme Court explained its order issued on September 10, 2020 granting Plaintiffs' special action seeking to enjoin the Maricopa County Recorder from including a new overvote instruction with mail-in ballots for the November 3, 2020 general election, holding that the Recorder acted unlawfully by including the new instruction with mail-in ballots.An overvote occurs when a person votes for more candidates than is permitted for a specific election. Before the 2020 election cycle the Recorder included an instruction advising mail-in voters that overvotes would not be counted, and in the even of an overvote, to contact the Recorder's office and request a new ballot. During the 2020 presidential preference and primary elections, however, the Recorder included with mail-in ballots the instruction at issue, which provides that if a mail-in voter makes a "mistake" on his mail-in ballot, rather than obtaining a new ballot, the voter may correct the mistake on his existing ballot. The Supreme Court enjoined the County from including the new instruction with mail-in ballots for the November 3, 2020 general election, holding that the Recorder did not have the authority to promulgate mail-in ballot instructions or to create voter guidelines for correcting overbites to ensure that they will be counted. View "Arizona Public Integrity Alliance v. Fontes" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court held that the proponents of an initiative, the "Invest in Education Act," complied with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-102(A) and gathered enough signatures under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-118.01(A) to qualify for the November 3, 2020 general election ballot.Defendant, a political action committee, sought to place the "Invest in Education Act" initiative on the 2020 ballot. Plaintiffs, an elector and a political action committee, opposed the Initiative, claiming that the 100-word description on petition sheets violated section 19-102(A) and that the measure lacked sufficient signatures after removing signatures gathered by petition circulators who were paid in violation of section 19-118.01(A). The superior court enjoined the Secretary of State from certifying and placing the Initiative on the 2020 ballot, finding that the 100-word description on the petition signature sheets failed to comply with section 19-102(A). The Supreme Court reversed the judgment in part, holding that the initiative proponents complied with section 19-102(A) and gathered enough signatures to qualify for the 2020 general election ballot. View "Molera v. Hobbs" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed in part the decision of the superior court denying Appellant's challenge to the legal sufficiency of Shawnna Bolick's nomination documents, holding that, under the facts of this case, use of a private mailbox address substantially complied with the statutory requirements for petitions and nomination papers but not for circulator verifications on paper petition sheets.Appellant filed a complaint challenging Bolick's nomination petitions and nomination paper, arguing that Bolick did not comply with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-311(A), -314(C), and -315(B) because she used a private mailbox address as her place of residence. The superior court denied the challenge, finding that Bolick substantially complied with the applicable election laws because voters were unlikely to have been confused or misled by the technical error. The Supreme Court ordered that Bolick's name be included on the ballot, holding (1) Bolick substantially complied with section 16-311(A) and -314(C) under the facts of this case; and (2) Bolick did not substantially comply with section 16-315(B), and therefore, the signatures from the paper petition sheets circulated by Bolick were invalid. View "Lohr v. Bolick" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court ruling that Defendants did not obtain sufficient signatures to generate a recall election of Payson Mayor Thomas P. Morrissey, holding that the Arizona Constitution establishes the requisite number of signatures based upon the number of voters in the most recent election at which the candidate for the office at issue was voted into office.In August 12 2019, Defendants took out a petition to recall Morrissey. Because all Payson elections since 2002 were decided by primary election the town clerk determined that the number of signatures required for the recall petition was twenty-five percent of the number of votes cast in the 2002 general election. The town clerk called a recall election for March 10, 2020. Morrissey filed this lawsuit seeking to enjoin the recall election, arguing that the required number of signatures should be based on twenty-five percent of the votes cast in the 2018 primary election at which he was elected. The trial court agreed and enjoined the recall election based on insufficient signatures. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding that the town clerk should have based the number of signatures required for a recall election on twenty-five percent of the votes cast in the 2018 election. View "Morrissey v. Garner" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court affirmed the decision of the court of appeals affirming the judgment of the superior court denying relief to the Arizona Chapter of the Associated General Contractors of America and David Martin (collectively, Contractors) on their complaint seeking to enjoin placement of the "Building a Better Phoenix Act" initiative measure on the City of Phoenix's August 2019 special election ballot, holding that the initiative qualified for the ballot.Contractors filed a complaint seeking to enjoin placement of the Initiative on the ballot, alleging that petition signatures were void pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-118.01(A) because the measure's proponent paid petition circulators by the signature and that the measure's 100-word description failed to comply with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-102(A) because it created a significant danger of confusion or unfairness. The superior court denied relief, and the court of appeals affirmed. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 19-118.01(A) does not apply to local measures such as the Initiative, and therefore, the superior court correctly refused to apply that provision here; and (2) the description was not misleading and therefore did not create a significant danger of either confusion or unfairness. View "Arizona Chapter of Associated General Contractors of America v. City of Phoenix" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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In this opinion, the Supreme Court explained its March 20, 2019 order affirming the trial court's decision enjoining a recall election of Phoenix City Councilman Michael Nowakowski, holding that the trial court did not err in ruling that the recall petition did not comply with Ariz. Rev. 19-202.01(D) and -203(D) because the petition sheets were not attached to a time-and-date-marked copy of the recall application.Displeased with Nowakowski's conduct as a councilman, some electors from District 7 of the City of Phoenix sought to initiate a recall election. Urban Phoenix Project PAC (the Committee) later submitted a recall petition to the Phoenix City Clerk for verification. The City Clerk certified that the petition had sufficient signatures to be on the ballot for the March 2019 election. Plaintiff challenged the recall petition. The trial court ruled that the recall was not eligible to be placed on the ballot because the Committee had failed to comply with the statutory requirements. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) the Arizona Constitution guarantees voters the right to recall elected officers, but that right must be exercised pursuant to constitutional and statutory provisions; and (2) the signatures could not be certified because none of the Committee's petition sheets were attached to the complete time-and-date-marked application. View "Morales v. Archibald" on Justia Law

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In this opinion, the Supreme Court explained its reasoning for its previously issued orders affirming the trial court’s rulings that the Proposition 127, Renewable Energy Standards Initiative qualified for the November 2018 ballot.At issue was a political action committee’s (Committee) organization formation, the adequacy of the title of the Initiative, and whether the trial court erred in finding a sufficient number of valid petition signatures to support placement of Proposition 127 on the ballot. The Supreme Court held (1) Plaintiffs may not contest the validity of the Initiative based on the statement of the Committee’s alleged non-compliance with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-906(B); (2) the Initiative’s title was legally sufficient; and (3) the trial court’s finding that there were a sufficient number of signatures required to place the Initiative on the ballot was not in error. View "Leach v. Reagan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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The Supreme Court explained the reasons for its prior decision order disqualifying the “Stop Political Dirty Money Amendment” (the Initiative) from the November 2018 general election ballot, holding that Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-118(C), which invalidates any petition signatures obtained by a registered circulator subpoenaed in an election challenge who fails to appear for trial, is constitutional.After the Outlaw Dirty Money political committee (Committee) filed signature petitions with the Secretary of State to qualify the Initiative for the November 2018 ballot, Petitioners filed a complaint pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-118(D) challenging the validity of certain petitions based on objections to petition circulators. Later, the Committee filed a complaint claiming that the Secretary erroneously removed certain petition sheets and signatures during her review and subpoenaed fifteen circulators requiring their appearance at an evidentiary hearing. None of the subpoenaed circulators appeared at the hearing. The trial court subsequently disqualified the non-appearing subpoenaed circulators’ petition signatures, a ruling that rendered the Initiative ineligible for the November 2018 ballot. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) section 19-118 fosters the integrity of the initiative process and does so by reasonable means; and (2) therefore, section 19-118(C)’s disqualification provision is constitutional on its face and as applied. View "Stanwitz v. Reagan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law
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In this opinion, the Supreme Court explained its ruling that House Concurrent Resolution 2007 (HCR 2007) does not violate the constitutional “single subject rule,” holding that because the two provisions of HCR 2007 are reasonably related to one general subject, the measure satisfies the single subject rule.Challengers filed suit requesting the trial court to enjoin the Secretary of State from placing HCR 2007 on the ballot, alleging that the measure violated the single subject rule contained in Ariz. Const. art. IV, part 2. Relying on Arizona Chamber of Commerce & Industry v. Kiley, 242 Ariz. 533 (2017), the trial court concluded that the rule does not apply to HCR 2007. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) measures referred to the people by the legislature are “acts” subject to the single subject rule; and (2) HCR 2007 satisfied the single subject rule. View "Hoffman v. Reagan" on Justia Law

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In this opinion, the Supreme Court explained the reasons for its prior order disqualifying the “Invest in Education Act” initiative from the November 2018 election ballot, holding that the initiative’s description was fatally flawed because it did not comply with the requirements of Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-102(A).The proposed initiative would increase K-12 education funding and raise certain income tax rates to support it. When Petitioners sought to invalidate the initiative, the superior court ruled that the initiative was eligible for the ballot. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the initiative’s proponents did not comply with the requirements of section 19-102(A) because their description of the initiative’s principal provisions omitted material provisions and failed adequately to inform those who signed petitions to place the measure on the ballot about what they were signing. View "Molera v. Reagan" on Justia Law

Posted in: Election Law