State lawmakers target Tucson election process, again

Published: Mar. 3, 2023 at 8:36 PM MST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

TUCSON, Ariz. (13 News) - As they have many times in the past, Arizona lawmakers have come at Tucson with sharpened knives.

This time, the legislature is after Tucson’s election procedures, which are unique to Arizona.

Justine Wadsack, a Tucson Republican from Dist. 17, has introduced a pair of bills that are still alive at the state legislature. In fact, one advanced in the Senate just Thursday.

Both are constitutional amendments which means they would be referred to the ballot to allow all Arizonans to vote up or down.

The first, SCR 1027, would force Tucson to change the way it elects its city council members which they have been doing for nearly 100 years.

In Tucson, primary elections are ward only. The candidates who run in the general election are chosen by wards. But in the general, the votes are cast citywide.

The Republicans claim that’s a big advantage to the Democrats. All six city council members are Democrats.

Two city wards, Nos. 2 and 4, have more registered Republicans than the other four and it’s possible to elect a Republican in those wards in ward-only elections the GOP believes.

SCR 1027 would force the city to hold both primary and general elections in ward-only contests.

That has been tried in the past but has failed in the courts.

And that’s because Tucson, and 18 other Arizona cities, have a charter form of government, a constitution that governs how the city operates.

SCR 1023 would give voters a chance to eliminate all charter cities, giving the state more control over its day-to-day operations and policymaking.

SCR 1023 has already failed in the legislation but Wadsack made some changes and so the bill is being reconsidered.

“We should let Tucson be Tucson,” said Priya Sundareshan, a Democrat from Dist. 18, in opposition to the bill SCR1027.

But these two bills making their way through the state legislature will do just the opposite. Neither will let Tucson be Tucson.

“The state legislature has essentially forced us to get into a defensive posture every time we see a bill come out of Phoenix,” said Ward 6 City Council member Steve Kozachik. “We’re not stupid down here. We recognize that we are their target and we’re going to have to defend our ability to exercise home rule.”

“Voters in every city, even 350 miles away from Tucson like Kingman or 384 miles away like Page would vote on Tucson’s election system,” Tucson’s Andrew Greenhill told lawmakers.

Wadsack was able to get the bill through the state senate Thursday but Tucson voters in the past have rejected a change in election procedures opting to continue on its present course.