Mayoral and city council candidates in Pinal County and elsewhere are circulating petitions and organizing their efforts in anticipation of the August primary and November general election. Meanwhile, county, legislative and congressional candidates are running too, as we work through the presidential primaries on the Democratic side. School board candidates are getting ready as well. Not long ago, Pinal and other cities had elections in the late winter and spring, but that is mostly a thing of the past in the state. As we’ve said before, that’s both good and bad.
The legislative thinking about forcing the change is that it would increase voter participation in the local elections. At the same time, it dilutes the interest, as so much is going on at the polls.
Some cities went to court and won the right to maintain their spring elections because they have charter governments. Casa Grande has one as well but decided it might lose the case because a provision in its charter says the city follows state law.
The Legislature pushed out a tougher stance against spring elections with a 2018 law that mandates a switch if participation has a gap of more than 25% from the most recent election for governor. That amounted to 65% when Gov. Doug Ducey was re-elected two years ago. Tempe turnout has ranged from 18 to 27% since 2010, according to The Arizona Republic, and the city may be forced to change. That turnout seems typical for local elections but not good by any means. In fact, 65% of registered voters is nothing to brag about.
Even Phoenix has switched to fall elections, although Tucson is still a holdout.
August and November elections have worked pretty well in Pinal County and certainly have increased turnout, even though they have lost some of their individual interest. And that presents an ironic contrast. At any rate, citizens should do a better job of gathering knowledge and voting — it’s crucial to a democratic system of government.