By Darren Daronco
Local officials are urging Gov. Jan Brewer to veto a bill currently on her desk that they say encroaches on local autonomy.
HB 2826, which cleared the Legislature on Monday, would require local municipalities and other government entities to hold their regular and special elections every two years to save money and increase voter turnout.
"There is no real good reason to do this ... It's just taking away local control," said Yuma City Administrator Greg Wilkinson, adding that the Arizona Supreme Court recently ruled in the Tucson v. Arizona case that the state cannot interfere with local elections.
"Seventy-six of 91 cities and towns in Arizona hold their elections in odd years. So it's a huge impact trying to figure out what we are going to do if the governor doesn't veto it."
Wilkinson said one of the biggest concerns will be what local municipalities do with officials currently holding office whose terms expire in years where elections are prohibited.
"We are not allowed to cut a term and we can't add a year to a term," he said, mentioning the city was drafting a letter urging the governor to veto the bill. "There are no constitutional, statutory or charter provisions to do that. So that is new ground that the law does not address."
But opposition to the bill doesn't end at City Hall.
"HB 2826 is a bad bill and our community doesn't want it," said Rep. Lynne Pancrazi, D-Yuma, who voted against it. "It takes away local power. It takes away school districts for bond issues and any other thing that's local."
Pancrazi said even though the bill's sponsors claim it will increase turnout since off-year elections traditionally experience a drop in voter participation, in reality the opposite will occur.
"What it will do is cause voter burnout because you will have a ballot the length of a football field. So voters will just vote for one or two things and then leave the rest blank or they just won't vote at all."
In addition to voter fatigue, Pancrazi said the sheer size of the ballot will create numerous problems for county election officials, a sentiment shared by Yuma County elections director Sue Reynolds.
Reynolds said every county recorder and elections director in Arizona opposes the bill since it would increase election costs through higher paper and mailing expenses and place undue burdens on election offices across the state.
"And that's some of the reasons why we (the Arizona Association of Counties) submitted a letter today requesting (Brewer's) veto," Reynolds said.
Despite the numerous complaints, Sen. Don Shooter, R-Yuma, who voted for the bill, said the bill's premise was successful in other places where it was implemented.
"Enough people have advocated for it that it seems to work and maybe we should try it," Shooter said. "But if it's like so much we do up here and there are unintended consequences and it turns out to be a disaster, then we will stop it."
(c)2012 The Sun (Yuma, Ariz.)