Tucson's mail-in election may violate state law

Published: Apr. 22, 2011 at 3:17 PM MST|Updated: Apr. 29, 2011 at 5:01 PM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - Tucson city leaders voted two weeks ago to hold all mail elections. It was a way to save money for a cash starved city and increase voter turnout.

But Republicans at the state legislature have different ideas.

After the city vote, the lawmakers inserted language in SB 1331 which in essence says Tucson can't do that.

Any other city in the state can hold mail in elections, just not Tucson.

The reason is Tucson's appeals court victory earlier this week over the state legislature.

The appeals court upheld Tucson's charter which calls for partisan elections. Tucson is the only city in Arizona which holds partisan elections. According to SB 1331, as long as Tucson holds partisan elections, they can't hold all mail elections.

Tucson is the only city which fits the definition.

Former state lawmaker Jonathan Paton was the voice and effort to change that when he was in the legislature. He sponsored the bill which eliminated partisan elections and the city's hybrid ward only elections.

He was on the losing end on that one but says he will appeal to the State Supreme Court where he's confident of a reversal.

But he was on the winning end of the mail in election.

"Many people do not trust the city with an all mail in ballot," he says. "They want some accountability and they're afraid that's not going to happen with an all mail in ballot."

"It'll end up in court," says Steve Kozachik. "The only people making money in this legislature are the lawyers."

Kozachik says it's just another example of the hammer the legislature has used on the city during this session.

"It's some kind of political vendetta," says Kozachik.

There has been a lot of talk in Tucson about the Southern Arizona delegation and whether it's voting in the best interests of the residents South of the Gila River.

"In days past, moderate Republicans and moderate Democrats would pull together to make sure Phoenix lawmakers didn't crush Pima County and Tucson," says Jeff Rogers, chairman of the Pima County Democratic party. "That's not the case anymore."

Kozachik a Republican, agrees.

"It's noting but partisan politics," he says. "Because this is Grijalva country, Dupnik is the sheriff down here."

But Paton says there should be no surprises because "the voters have spoken."

He says the people elected to the state legislature are doing what they said they were going to do.

"They felt there needed to be big changes," he says. "And they're doing that."

Paton admits Tucson is the target but there's a reason.

"Tucson is the worst run city in the state, by far," he says. He says they trying to make the city more fiscally accountable and "more business friendly."

But Kozachik says it hurts the city and its voters.

"It's just a slap in the face to their own constituents frankly," he says.

SB 1331 sits on the Governor's desk. She has until May 2 to sign it.

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