Justia Election Law Opinion Summaries

Articles Posted in Arizona Supreme Court
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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court rejecting objections based on the issue of whether signatures collected by some initiative petition circulators must be disqualified because those circulators failed to strictly comply with two registration requirements, holding that this Court declines to disqualify any signatures as a result of the circulators' failure to strictly comply with Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-102.01(A).At issue was a challenge to the Voters' Right to Know Act, a proposed statewide initiative for the November 8, 2022 general election ballot. Challengers filed this lawsuit challenging the legal sufficiency of certain circulator registrations. The trial court denied most of Challengers' objections. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) circulators failed to strictly comply with one statutory requirement which ordinarily would require the Secretary of State to disqualify the signatures gathered by those circulators; and (2) because the registration process prevented compliance with the statute, enforcing the statutory disqualification requirement would "unnecessarily hinder or restrict" the constitutional right to engage in the initiative process. View "Leibsohn v. Hobbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court reversed the order of the trial court that the Senate disclose all communications concerning an audit to American Oversight, holding that communications concerning legislative activities need not relate to proposed or pending legislation nor require an affirmative showing of indirect impairment of legislative deliberations to qualify for legislative privilege.At issue in this case was the scope and application of legislative privilege pursuant to the "Gravel/Fields framework" under the Arizona Constitution and common law. In 2020, Senate members contracted to conduct an audit of ballots cast in Maricopa County. American Oversight, a nonprofit organization, filed a complaint under Ariz. Rev. Stat. 39-121 to compel disclosure of the documents. The trial court rejected the Senate's immunity claim and ordered it to disclose the documents. When the Senate submitted a privilege log listing several withheld and redacted communications along with the requested documents American Oversight moved to compel the Senate to produce the withheld records. The trial court rejected the Senate's legislative privilege claim and granted the motion. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the Gravel/Fields framework requires that the Senate only disclose communications concerning administrative, political, or other non-legislative matters. View "Fann v. Honorable Kemp" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court held that the exemption from the referendum power for law "for the support and maintenance of the departments of the state government and state institutions," see Ariz. Const. art. 4, pt. 1, 1(3), apples to tax measures and that a revenue measure is exempt from referendum provided that it is for the support and maintenance of existing departments of the state government and state institutions.SB 1828 was signed by the Governor as a tax bill for the 2022 fiscal year and imposes a "flat" tax of 2.5 percent on taxable revenues but becomes effective only if the state General Fund revenues reach specific targets. Invest in Arizona (IIA) sought to prevent implementation of the flat tax by referring SB 1828 to the ballot in the November 2022 general election. Appellants filed a motion for preliminary injunction seeking to enjoin the Secretary of State from accepting or certifying any petition filed in support of a referendum of SB 1828, including IIA's petition. The trial court ruled that SB 1828 is referable and denied the preliminary injunction request. The Supreme Court reversed, holding that the exemption from the referendum power for laws "for the support and maintenance of the departments of the state government and state institutions" applies to tax measures. View "Arizona Free Enterprise Club v. Hobbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the order of the trial court granting Rasean Clayton's application for a temporary and permanent injunction enjoining Kanye West and his presidential electors from appearing on the general election ballot for president in 2020, holding that West did not present the Secretary of State with the requisite number of qualified electors for placement on the ballot.The Supreme Court concluded that the presidential electors had failed to file the statement of interest required by Ariz. Rev. Stat. 16-341(I) and that, therefore, the nomination petition signatures submitted on their behalf were invalid, making West unable to qualify for the ballot. Given the dispositive effect of the failure of West's electors' to qualify for the ballot, the Supreme Court did not address his other arguments. View "Clayton v. West" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the judgment of the trial court disqualifying the "Stop Surprise Billing and Protect Patients Act" ballot initiative (the Initiative) from the November 2020 general election ballot, holding that there were an insufficient number of signatures to qualify for the ballot.On appeal, Appellant argued that signatures gathered by registered circulators may not be disqualified pursuant to Ariz. Rev. Stat. 19-118(E) if the circulators "de-registered" pursuant to the provisions of the Arizona Secretary of State 2019 Election Procedures Manual (2019 EPM) before the signatures are challenged and that subpoenas were not properly served on the circulators. The Supreme Court affirmed, holding (1) by de-registering pursuant to the provisions of the 2019 EPM a registered petition circulator may not evade the statutory requirement in section 19-118(E) that registered circulators subpoenaed in an election challenge appear for trial; and (2) the subpoenas were properly served on the circulators. View "Leach v. Hobbs" on Justia Law

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The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the trial court finding that Javier Soto, a candidate for the Democratic Party's nomination for the Arizona House of Representatives in Legislative District 3, obtained enough valid signatures to qualify for placement on the primary election ballot, holding that the district court did not err.Specifically, the Supreme Court held (1) signatures dated with a month and day but no year substantially complied with the requirement of a "[d]ate of signing"; (2) signatures that listed the signer's street address but no municipality, state, or zip code substantially complied with the requirement of an "actual residence address"; and (3) the trial court did not err by finding the signatures valid. View "McKenna v. Soto" on Justia 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

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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

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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

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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