Addressing a state law that requires entities to hold elections during even-numbered years, on Aug. 20 the Marana Town Council approved a new measure that will increase the terms of sitting council members.
The council unanimously approved all but one portion of the resolution, expressing concerns over how the changes would impact how a candidate can be elected outright in a primary election.
The Town of Marana currently holds elections in the spring of odd-numbered years. Last year, the Arizona Legislature amended a statute to mandate that all regular candidate elections fall on even-numbered years.
“They (state legislature) were arguing that it would improve voter turnout and it saves money across the state having one ballot for all these different things,” said Town Manager Gilbert Davidson, in reference to why the legislature wants the election dates switched.
To allow local entities to be in compliance with the state law, the Arizona Legislature passed Senate Bill 1454 in the 2013 session, which will lengthen the terms of some elected officials.
On the Marana Council, current council members and the mayor serve a four-year term. The current council members were elected in 2011 and 2013.
Under state law, the council members elected in 2011 will serve until 2016, and those elected in 2013 would serve until 2018.
With council approval, the changes go into affect in January 2014.
The part of the measure that was not passed by the council concerned the proposal on how the majority of votes cast would be counted in a mayoral election.
Currently, the candidate who receives 50 percent plus one of all votes in the primary election is elected and doesn’t have to run in the general election. With the new election years, the concern is that the total number of votes cast will be considerably greater than the number of voters voting on just Marana candidates. Council members feared it will make it harder for Marana candidates to be elected in the primary elections.
In 2010, the legislature amended the state law so that “majority of the votes cast” does not include the total number of votes cast in the election, but just the total of all votes tabulated for the candidates running for the position of mayor.
Even with this change, the council members still pointed out a problem with the new proposal. Currently, the changes only apply to the election of the mayor and not the election of council members.
“I think that the legislation will come back and probably amend the part about the election for the council members,” said Deputy Town Attorney Jane Fairall. “There’s no deadline to have this decided by – just before the 2016 elections.”
The last part of ordinance proposes a new town code that has the newly elected candidates take office at the regular scheduled council meeting following the date of the general election or the date that it would have been held if it didn’t need to occur.