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Missing proposition pamphlets put city elections in question

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Missing proposition pamphlets put city elections in question

  • An early ballot and supporting materials, but no city publicity pamphlet, mailed to a Tucson voter.
    Mark Ulm/John C. Scott ShowAn early ballot and supporting materials, but no city publicity pamphlet, mailed to a Tucson voter.

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. 

Pro/con arguments

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:

  • Proposition 201: An initiative filed by Tucson Traffic Justice that would eliminate red-light cameras in the city.
  • Proposition 403: A proposal referred by mayor and the City Council to amend the Tucson City Charter to provide for equal voting rights for the Mayor on matters on which the Council votes; and including the Mayor in the calculation of the quorum for Mayor and Council meetings.
  • Proposition 404: A proposal referred by mayor and Council to amend the City Charter to provide for uniform method of appointment and removal of city department directors; and eliminating civil service protections for those employees.
  • Proposition 405: A proposed amendment to the Tucson City Charter recommended by the Citizen’s Commission on Public Service and Compensation to increase the salary of the mayor from $3,500 to $4,030 per month; and increase councilmember salaries from $2,000 to $2,288 monthly.

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.

Voter guide

If you want to refer to the publicity pamphlet before filling out your early ballot or casting your vote at the polls, it has been posted on the city of Tucson's website.

State law

Arizona law requires the printing and mailing of information pamphlets about ballot measures:

A.R.S. 19-141. Initiative and referendum in counties, cities and towns

A. The provisions of this chapter shall apply to the legislation of cities, towns and counties, except as specifically provided to the contrary in this article. The duties required of the secretary of state as to state legislation shall be performed in connection with such legislation by the city or town clerk, county officer in charge of elections or person performing the duties as such. The duties required of the governor shall be performed by the mayor or the chairman of the board of supervisors, the duties required of the attorney general shall be performed by the city, town or county attorney, and the printing and binding of measures and arguments shall be paid for by the city, town or county in like manner as payment is provided for by the state with respect to state legislation. The provisions of section 19-124 with respect to the legislative council analysis do not apply in connection with initiatives and referenda in cities, towns and counties. The printing shall be done in the same manner as other municipal or county printing is done.

B. Distribution of pamphlets shall be made to every household containing a registered voter in the city or county, so far as possible, by the city or town clerk or by the county officer in charge of elections by mail before the earliest date for receipt by registered voters of any requested early ballot for the election at which the measures are to be voted on. If the pamphlet is not mailed before the earliest date for receipt of a requested early ballot, the officer in charge of elections shall provide a notice with the early ballots stating when the pamphlets will be mailed and where and when the pamphlets may be accessed or viewed. Pamphlets shall not be mailed or carried less than ten days before the election at which the measures are to be voted upon.

C. Arguments supporting or opposing municipal or county initiative and referendum measures shall be filed with the city or town clerk or the county officer in charge of elections not less than ninety days before the election at which they are to be voted upon.

D. The procedure with respect to municipal and county legislation shall be as nearly as practicable the same as the procedure relating to initiative and referendum provided for the state at large, except the procedure for verifying signatures on initiative or referendum petitions may be established by a city or town by charter or ordinance.

E. References in this section to duties to be performed by city or town officers apply only with respect to municipal legislation, and references to duties to be performed by county officers apply only with respect to county legislation.

F. The duties required of the county recorder with respect to state legislation shall also be performed by the county recorder with respect to municipal or county legislation.

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