TUCSON, AZ (KOLD) - The Arizona Court of Appeals has struck down a 2009 state law that forces the City of Tucson to hold non-partisan elections for municipal office and to elect council members by ward rather than "at large" in general elections.
"Obviously, we're very pleased with the result," says Tucson City Attorney Mike Rankin, who filed the appeal.
The city's challenge accused the state of improperly trying to regulate a local matter and the courts agreed.
"Elections are really the heart and soul of your charter and what the state was trying to do was change our system of elections," he says.
Tucson is the only city in Arizona which has a hybrid election system. Candidates are nominated by ward but they're elected city wide.
Republicans see that as an unfair advantage for Democrats which holds a favorable edge in registration.
Many Republicans have been nominated in wards with a GOP majority only to lose when they run citywide.
State lawmakers, led by former lawmaker and Republican Jonathan Paton, passed a law forcing ward only elections in Tucson.
The law also said Tucson's elections could no longer be partisan, there would be no D's or R's or Green Party or anything else. All candidates would be required to run without a party affiliation. Again, Tucson is the only city in the state to hold partisan elections.
"I'm kind of disappointed," says Mayor Bob Walkup. "I think it was time for us to join the rest of the state on non partisan elections."
Walkup wanted non partisan elections but was unsure of the ward only components.
"Let the people in the wards speak out but let's elect on a non partisan basis," he says.
But that will not happen for the time being.
Paton says he's "disappointed" but will appeal.
A lower court ruled in favor of the state, but that decision was overturned in an opinion issued Wednesday.
The case is Tucson v State of Arizona, 2ca-cv-2010-0083.
Copyright 2011 KOLD. All rights reserved.
7831 N. Business Park Drive