PHOENIX – The Arizona Attorney General’s Office (AGO) filed a special action with the Arizona Supreme Court today asking the Court to resolve whether the City of Tucson’s ordinance, which calls for the next City Council election, and any special local elections, to be held “off-cycle” in 2021. The AGO is requesting the Court to declare that the Tucson ordinance violates state law and is therefore null and void.
Last month, the AGO determined Tucson’s ordinance (11731) may violate state law. A.R.S. § 16–204.01 requires a city to “hold its elections on a statewide election date if its previous elections on a nonstatewide election date resulted in a significant decrease in voter turnout.” The statute defines significant decrease as at least a 25% reduction in voter turnout for the most recent election in which the governor appeared on the ballot.
During Tucson’s 2018 statewide general election voter turnout was 67%. In 2019, voter turnout for Tucson’s off-cycle election was 39.26%. By law, this significant decrease would require Tucson to hold its next city election on the statewide election dates in 2022. Despite the decrease in voter turnout, Tucson City Council voted in February 2020 to hold the next city primary election on August 3, 2021 and the next city general election on November 2, 2021.
The AGO argues that Tucson's ordinance is not a matter of purely local concern. Matters of statewide interest include increasing voter participation, protecting the fundamental right to vote, and safeguarding the integrity of Arizona’s elections. Additionally, the Arizona Supreme Court has previously stated that some aspects of local elections are matters of statewide concern, including election dates.