The Main Stream

Apr 28, 2011 8:44 AM

Awaiting Governor's decision, Tucson's mail-in elections hang in the balance

TUCSON - Governor Jan Brewer has a lot on her plate this week, more than 100 bills to get through over the next few days. One of those bills is SB 1331 and it could prohibit Tucson from having mail ballot elections.

Just this month the Tucson City Council decided all voters would get mail-in ballots for the next two elections in August and November of 2011.

Shortly afterwards, State Representative Ted Vogt, from Tucson, added something to that senate bill that could stop the city in its tracks. However the City is saying, 'not so fast.'

"What was Tucson's rush? Why are they changing the rules of how Tucsonans vote four months before the election," State Representative Ted Vogt said.

Vogt added an amendment to 1331 only allowing mail-in elections for cities, towns and school districts with non-partisan elections. On a Tucson ballot, candidates are identified by political party.

"What my amendment does is preserves the status quo. And what is that, Tucsonans can vote by early ballot mail-in, or go to the polls," Vogt said.

City Attorney Mike Rankin believes Tucson is being singled out.

"This was another effort by the legislature to dictate to one city, the City of Tucson, how they want to see us run our local elections," Rankin said.

The City says they decided to move forward with mail-in voting to save money and bump up voter turn out. Rankin says the Governor's signature will not get in the way.

"The authority we relied on to make that decision and do a mail ballot election is through our city charter not through the state statute," Rankin said.

Even if SB 1331 becomes law, the City is planning for mail-in elections this August.

"We just got a decision in the court of appeals last week telling us in election matters the authority of our charter supersedes the authority of our legislature," Rankin said.

In August, voters will still have the option of going to the polls in Tucson, but the number of polling places will be drastically cut back.

If the Governor does sign the bill by the Monday, May 2 deadline, the matter could still all be settled through litigation in the Arizona Supreme Court.

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