Missing proposition pamphlets put city elections in question
With the city of Tucson missing state-mandated deadlines to mail publicity pamphlets about charter-change and red-light camera propositions on the ballot, whether the outcome of those questions at the polls will be legally binding is in question.
City Manager Michael Ortega said there was a "vendor issue" that caused the information to not be mailed on time.
Arizona law requires the city to mail pamphlets containing arguments for and against ballot measures to every household with a registered voter before any early ballots are received.
If the city can't comply with that for some reason, a notice of when the information will be mailed must be provided along with the early ballots.
City officials admitted Thursday that even though early voting began a week ago, the required information was not mailed to voters in a timely manner.
A city spokeswoman said that the posting of the information brochures was "delayed by our vendors who print and mail this pamphlet."
"The vendor has indicated many of these have been dropped at the U.S. Post Office on Oct. 12, 14 and 15," Lane Mandle said.
Oct. 12 was Monday, and U.S. post offices were closed for Columbus Day.
City Councilman Steve Kozachik said Thursday night that City Clerk Roger Randolph "told me they were going out tomorrow."
"This is bad form," Kozachik said. "We've got to be on top of our game with this stuff. We can't have this laissez-faire, 'get to it when we get to it' attitude."
Randolph said Friday morning that the final artwork for the pamphlets was provided to the printing vendor, Runbeck Election Services, on Sept. 23, and that "they completed printing and made the drop to the mailer," AZ Jet Mail, on Oct. 8.
"The vendor indicates that all the pamphlets have been mailed and should arrive over the weekend," Randolph said.
"The printing cost is approximately $60,000 and the mailing is approximately $15,000. We have been working with the vendor on a price reduction," he said.
"It's very disappointing that the Clerk's Office wasn't able to get the voter guide out on time," said Councilman Paul Cunningham, who's also on the general election ballot. "To say 'we made a mistake' is a major understatement."
"They only had one job," the East Side Democrat said Thursday, noting that designing the ballots and mailing them were tasks for Pima County officials.
Members of the public who wanted to include their take on the ballot measures in the pamphlet had until Aug. 5 to file their 300-word arguments and pay $100 to the City Clerk's Office.
Included on the city ballot, along with elections for mayor and three City Council members, and Pima County bond measures, are three municipal propositions:
Because the city didn't comply with state law, the inclusion of any of those measures on the ballot could potentially be challenged in court. But there's a catch: the Arizona Supreme Court has held that challenges rooted in violations of election procedures must be filed before Election Day, not after the people have voted.
"... Procedures leading up to an election cannot be questioned after the people have voted, but instead the procedures must be challenged before the election is held," the state's high court held in Tilson v. Mofford, 1987.
Ortega said Friday morning that city officials are unsure if there would be grounds to a challenge to the election.
Pima County Recorder F. Ann Rodriguez, who was in charge of mailing ballots to those signed up for the Permanent Early Voting List, said Thursday that the city didn't provide her office with anything to include in the early-ballot envelopes.
Voters asked about their envelopes said that they did not include any notice from the city about when they might receive the pamphlets.
Lost in translation
Mark Spear, one of the organizers of the anti-red light camera petition drive, said the problem is that "many voters can not properly understand propositions without seeing the "for/against" arguments."
"Many early ballots have already been sent in without seeing the voter guide," he said via email.
Spear, anti-traffic camera activist John Kromko and 11 others submitted arguments in favor of passing Prop. 201. They're included in the document that was finally posted on the city's website, but Spear noted that the Spanish translation of his statement includes the line "Recomiendo un voto SI a la PROPOSICION 421."
There is no Prop. 421 on the ballot.
"Should we have them print a corrected copy? Or just refund our printing fees?," Spear asked.
Correction: This report has been updated to correct a quote from Cunningham.