Stories about Arizona

Election still undecided in New York’s 22nd Congressional District

Results in the Nov. 3 U.S. House election in New York’s 22nd Congressional District have not yet been certified. The latest vote count, completed on Dec. 30, showed former Rep. Claudia Tenney (R) with a 29-vote lead over incumbent Anthony Brindisi (D). This race was one of 56 U.S. House rematches from 2018, when Brindisi defeated Tenney 51% to 49%.

Litigation over the validity of certain absentee and affidavit ballots began the day following the election and is ongoing. Problems with mislaid ballots, missing documentation of ballot challenges, and errors in vote tabulation slowed the process.

Oswego County Supreme Court Justice Scott DelConte has not made a final ruling on these issues, and official results have not been certified. DelConte also asked both campaigns to file legal briefs by Jan. 14 on 2,418 voter registration applications submitted through the Department of Motor Vehicles that the county board of elections did not process before election day. These voters had the option to cast an affidavit ballot, but these ballots weren’t counted since it appeared the voters weren’t registered. At least 63 affidavit ballots from this group are being reviewed.

Final oral arguments on all court proceedings in the case are scheduled for Jan. 22.

Here are some other recent elections where the result was not confirmed until weeks after the elections:

  1. In 2018, the North Carolina Board of Elections did not certify the results in the 9th Congressional District race and voted unanimously to call for a new election on Feb. 21, 2019. Rep. Dan Bishop (R) won the special election on Sept. 10, 2019. 
  2. In the 2016 North Carolina governor’s race, incumbent Pat McCrory (R) conceded on Dec. 5, 2016, after a recount in Durham County verified that Roy Cooper (D) would remain ahead. 
  3. In 2014, Martha McSally (R) was declared the winner over incumbent Ron Barber (D) in Arizona’s 2nd Congressional District at the conclusion of a recount on Dec. 17, 2014.

Voters in Arizona, Colorado, Illinois decide ballot measures regarding state income taxes

Voters in 12 states voted on 19 ballot measures addressing tax-related policies on Nov. 3. Ten of the measures addressed taxes on properties, three were related to income tax rates, two addressed tobacco taxes, one addressed business-related taxes, one addressed sales tax rates, one addressed fees and surcharges, and one was related to tax-increment financing (TIF).

The three measures concerning state income taxes were on the ballot in Arizona, Colorado, and Illinois. Arizona voters approved a measure to add a surtax for income above a certain level to fund education. Colorado voters approved an income tax decrease. Illinois voters defeated a measure to allow for a graduated income tax.

Arizona Proposition 208 was approved by a vote of 51.75% to 48.25%. The measure enacted a 3.50% income tax, in addition to the existing income tax, on taxable income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). As of 2020, the highest income tax in Arizona was 4.50%, which was levied on income above $159,000 (single filing) or $318,000 (joint filing). Based on the existing income tax rates, the ballot initiative has the effect of increasing the tax rate from 4.50% to 8.00% on income above $250,000 (single filing) or $500,000 (joint filing). The Invest in Education PAC was registered in support of the ballot initiative. The PAC received $21.6 million in contributions. The Arizonans for Great Schools and a Strong Economy and No on 208 PACs were registered in opposition to the ballot initiative. The PACs received $5.7 million in contributions.

Colorado Proposition 116 was designed to decrease the state income tax rate from 4.63% to 4.55% for individuals, estates, trusts, and foreign and domestic C corporations operating in Colorado. It was approved by a vote of 57.88% to 42.12%.

The Colorado individual income tax rate has been a flat tax rate since 1987. The flat tax was 5% from 1987 to 1998. It was lowered to 4.75% in 1999. The rate has been 4.63% since 2000. Energize our Economy (306 Real Fair Tax) and Americans for Prosperity Colorado Issue Committee raised $1.55 million in contributions to support the measure. Protect Colorado’s Recovery and Fair Tax Colorado reported $3.19 million in contributions to oppose the measure.

An amendment to authorize the state to enact legislation providing for a graduated income tax was on the ballot in Illinois where it was defeated by a vote of 45.46% to 54.54%. The ballot measure would have repealed the state’s constitutional requirement that the state’s personal income tax is a flat rate across income. Instead, the ballot measure would have allowed the state to enact legislation for a graduated income tax. In Illinois, income is taxed at a flat rate of 4.95%.

The Vote Yes For Fairness, Vote Yes for Fair Tax, and Yes to a Financially Responsible Illinois PACs were registered to support the constitutional amendment. Together, the committees had raised $60.33 million. Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) contributed 94 percent of the PACs’ total combined funds.

The Vote No On The Blank Check Amendment, Coalition To Stop The Proposed Tax Hike, and Chambers Against Progressive Income Tax PACs were registered to oppose the constitutional amendment. Together, the committees had raised $60.86 million. Ken Griffin, the founder and CEO of Citadel, contributed 88 percent of the PACs’ total combined funds.

Going into the 2020 election, 43 states levied a tax on personal income. Of these 43 states, 11 states had a flat income tax rate, meaning there is a constant rate across income before deductions and exemptions. The flat income tax rates ranged from 2.00% in Tennessee to 5.25% in North Carolina. Tennessee’s income tax was scheduled to be reduced to 1.00% in 2020 and to be repealed entirely in 2021. Most (32 of 50) states had a graduated income tax, with different rates applied to different levels of income.

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At least four mayoral offices changed partisan control in the 100 largest cities Nov. 3

Twenty-nine of the 100 largest U.S. cities held mayoral elections in 2020. Of the 24 elections called so far, four party changes have taken place, with Republicans losing three offices and Democrats losing one. Democrats and independents each flipped two offices:

• In Honolulu, Hawaii, independent Rick Blangiardi won the open seat. Democratic mayor Kirk Caldwell was term-limited.

• In Irvine, California, Democrat Farrah Khan defeated incumbent Christina Shea (R).

• In San Diego, California, Democrat Todd Gloria won the open seat. The incumbent, Kevin Faulconer (R), was term-limited.

• In Scottsdale, Arizona, independent David Ortega won the open seat. Incumbent Jim Lane (R) was term-limited.

In those four cities—and in most of the nation’s largest cities—mayoral elections are officially nonpartisan, though many officeholders and candidates are affiliated with political parties. Ballotpedia uses one or more of the following sources to identify each officeholder’s partisan affiliation: (1) direct communication from the officeholder, (2) current or previous candidacy for partisan office, or (3) identification of partisan affiliation by multiple media outlets.

Democratic mayors oversaw 64 of the 100 largest cities at the beginning of 2020.

In 15 of the 29 cities that held elections in 2020, the incumbent was Republican at the start of 2020. Twelve incumbents were Democratic, one was independent, and one was nonpartisan.

Mayoral races in Riverside and Stockton, California, remain undecided. December runoff elections for mayor will be held in Baton Rouge, Louisiana (Dec. 5); Corpus Christi, Texas (Dec. 12); and El Paso, Texas (Dec. 15).

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Kelly declared winner over McSally in AZ special Senate election

Mark Kelly (D) defeated incumbent Martha McSally and 17 write-in candidates in the special election for U.S. Senate in Arizona. Kelly will fill the rest of the late-Sen. John McCain’s (R) term. The seat will be up for election in 2022.

In the 2018 general election, McSally ran for Arizona’s other Senate seat, losing to Kyrsten Sinema (D) 47.6% to 50.0%. After the election, interim Sen. Jon Kyl (R) announced his resignation and Gov. Doug Ducey (R) announced McSally as Kyl’s replacement in December 2018.

Before the election, Republicans had a 53-47 majority in the Senate. As of noon ET on November 6, two other seats besides Arizona’s had changed party hands. Tommy Tuberville (R) beat incumbent Doug Jones (D) in Alabama, and John Hickenlooper (D) beat incumbent Cory Gardner (R) in Colorado. Five races remain uncalled. 

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Schweikert wins re-election in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District

Incumbent Rep. David Schweikert (R) defeated Hiral Tipirneni (D) in Arizona’s 6th Congressional District election.

Schweikert was first elected in 2010. He was re-elected in 2018 with 55% to Anita Malik’s (D) 45%. Tipirneni was the Democratic nominee in the special and regular elections for Arizona’s 8th Congressional District in 2018. She lost to incumbent Debbie Lesko (R) 48% to 52% and 44.5% to 55.5%, respectively.

Heading into the election, Democrats had a 232-197 majority in the House. Republicans need to win a net 21 seats to win control of the chamber.

Voters to decide recall of fire district board member in Arizona on Nov. 3

A recall election seeking to remove Bruce Speirs from his position as chair of the three-member Sherwood Forest Estates Fire District Board in Arizona is on the ballot on November 3, 2020. Walter Krushinsky filed to run against Speirs in the recall election.

Recall supporters said that Speirs’ actions while on the board had “demoralized the department, divided the community, inhibited recruitment efforts and resulted in reduced participation of volunteer firefighters.”

Speirs responded to the recall effort, saying “Most of the accusations against me actually reflect the unethical behaviors of the FORMER Fire Chief, including holding secret neighborhood meetings to pit developments within our Fire District against one another and protect the illusion of his management.”

Recall supporters needed to submit 18 signatures to get the recall on the ballot. They submitted 49, and the county verified 43. Speirs had the option to resign by July 1 or face the recall election. He did not resign, and the election was scheduled for November 3. The filing deadline for candidates was September 4.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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Previewing Arizona House of Representatives elections

All 60 seats in the Arizona House of Representatives are up for election in 2020. Republicans lost seats but maintained their majority in the 2018 elections for the Arizona House of Representatives, winning 31 seats to Democrats’ 29. Arizona state representatives serve two-year terms, with all seats up for election every two years. Thirty multi-member state House districts elect two members each.

Ballotpedia has identified eight of the races in 2020 as battlegrounds, four of which are Democrat-held districts, three of which are Republican-held districts, and one district which is split between Republicans and Democrats. The Democrat-controlled battlegrounds are Districts 7, 10, 18, and 28. The Republican-controlled battlegrounds are Districts 6, 20, and 23. The split battleground is District 17 which is currently represented by both a Democrat and a Republican. Based on an analysis of these districts’ electoral histories, these races have the potential to be more competitive than other races and could lead to shifts in the partisan balance of the Arizona House of Representatives. 

Arizona has been under a Republican trifecta since 2009 when Gov. Jan Brewer (R) was sworn into office. Brewer’s accession to the governorship ended a period of divided government that began when Republicans lost their majority in the state Senate during the 2000 legislative elections. Republicans regained their Senate majority in the 2002 elections, when Janet Napolitano (D) was elected governor. Heading into the 2018 election, Republicans had maintained control of the state House since the 1966 elections. Had the Democratic Party taken the state House, it would have broken the Republican trifecta.

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U.S. Senate confirms Hinderaker to federal district court judgeship

The U.S. Senate confirmed John Hinderaker to the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona by a 70-27 vote. The U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona is one of 94 U.S. District Courts. They are the general trial courts of the United States federal courts.

After Hinderaker receives his federal judicial commission and takes his judicial oath, the 13-member court will have six Republican-appointed judges and seven Democrat-appointed judges. Hinderaker will join four other judges appointed by President Trump.

The U.S. Senate has confirmed 217 of President Trump’s Article III judicial nominees—two Supreme Court justices, 53 appellate court judges, 160 district court judges, and two U.S. Court of International Trade judges—since January 2017.

Hinderaker was a judge of the Pima County Superior Court in Arizona from 2018 to 2020. Before that, he was an attorney in private practice. He earned his B.A., with honors, in business economics from the University of California, Santa Barbara, in 1991 and his J.D., magna cum laude, from the University of Arizona College of Law in 1996. During his legal studies, he was a member of the Arizona Law Review.

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United States District Court for the District of Arizona
Federal judges nominated by Donald Trump

Arizona judge declines to rule on constitutional challenge to agency adjudication process

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Douglas Gerlach on September 9 upheld a decision by then-Arizona Department of Child Safety (DCS) Director Gregory McKay in a case challenging the constitutionality of the procedural due process protections available to individuals during the agency’s adjudication of child abuse allegations.

McKay placed Phillip B. (the only name provided) on the child abuse registry despite a finding by an administrative law judge (ALJ) that no probable cause existed to do so. Arizona law permits the DCS director to substitute his own judgment for that of the ALJ.

Mr. B. challenged the low standard of proof (probable cause) in the agency’s review process; the lack of cross-examination of witnesses; and the unilateral power of the DCS director to reverse an ALJ’s findings. The DCS director, according to the challenge, is not an impartial adjudicator because he exercises both investigatory and adjudicatory functions.

Gerlach declined to rule on the constitutional challenges raised by Mr. B. for factual reasons. He wrote in part that the bias challenge “flies in the face of well-settled law that ‘the combining of investigatory and adjudicatory functions [in a single agency] does not violate due process’ unless actual bias is shown.”

Mr. B. plans to appeal the decision.

“The court decided not to review the myriad due-process and separation-of-powers problems for factual reasons,” said attorney Aid Dynar of the New Civil Liberties Alliance in a statement. “At the same time, the court decided not to take a look at the facts to avoid the serious legal problems with Arizona’s administrative law. The court’s double-dodge offers an enticing recipe for appeal, and that is precisely what we plan to do.”

Read more about the case in the September 2019 edition of Checks and Balances: The Checks and Balances Letter: September 2019

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Arizonans to decide ballot initiative that would legalize marijuana in November

On November 3, Arizonans will decide a ballot initiative, titled Proposition 207, to legalize the possession and use of marijuana for persons who are at least 21 years old, enact a tax on marijuana sales, and require the state Department of Health and Human Services to develop rules to regulate marijuana businesses.

Proposition 207 is the first statewide initiative to be certified for the ballot in Arizona in 2020; three additional ballot initiatives are undergoing signature checks as of August 11.

On August 10, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs announced that 255,080 signatures were projected to be valid—17,435 more than the minimum requirement of 237,645. On July 1, 2020, the campaign behind Proposition 207, Smart and Safe Arizona, filed 428,481 signatures.

Proposition 207 will be the second time that Arizonans address a marijuana legalization proposal at the ballot box. In 2016, a citizen-initiated measure, titled Proposition 205, was defeated, with 51.3% voting “No.” Arizona was one of five states to vote on a citizen-initiated legalization measure in 2016. Voters in neighboring California and Nevada, along with Maine and Massachusetts, approved their respective ballot measures.

Stacy Pearson, a political consultant for Smart and Safe Arizona, said that Proposition 207 “incorporates lessons learned from the 2016 campaign, as well as from other states that have already legalized cannabis.” One of the differences between Proposition 205 and Proposition 207 is the proposed regulatory structure. Whereas Proposition 205 would have established a new government agency, the Department of Marijuana Licenses and Control, Proposition 207 would make the Arizona Department of Health and Human Services responsible for adopting rules to regulate marijuana. The excise tax on marijuana sales is also 1 percentage point higher—16%—under this year’s proposal.

Lisa James, chairperson of Arizonans for Health and Public Saftey, and six other individuals are seeking a court order to remove the initiative from the ballot. Plaintiffs argued that the ballot initiative is invalid because, according to the plaintiffs, “the measure’s 100-word summary is materially misleading and creates a substantial danger of fraud, confusion and unfairness.” On August 7, 2020, Superior Court Judge James Smith ruled in favor of the defendants, stating that the ballot language was sufficient. On August 11, James appealed the superior court’s ruling to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Smart and Safe Arizona raised $3.48 million through the most recent campaign finance filings on July 18. The deadline for the next scheduled reports is October 15, 2020. Harvest Enterprises, which is a marijuana business based in Tempe, contributed $1.43 million to Smart and Safe Arizona.

Arizonans for Health and Public Safety, which opposes Proposition 207, raised $142,065. The Center for Arizona Policy provided $100,000 of the opposition campaign’s funds.

In 2016, opponents raised $6.37 million in their effort to defeat Proposition 205, while supporters raised $6.55 million.

Eleven states and Washington, D.C., have legalized the possession and personal use of marijuana for recreational purposes. Except in Illinois and Vermont, marijuana was legalized through the ballot initiative process.

In 2020, New Jersey and South Dakota voters will vote on ballot measures to legalize recreational marijuana in November. Signatures have also been submitted for a legalization initiative in Montana.

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