Party Precinct Committeemen Will Be Elected This Year After All

Party Precinct Committeemen Will Be Elected This Year After All

By Terri Jo Neff |

Arizona’s roughly 7,000 precinct committeemen positions will be filled by election this year after all, following a judge’s ruling on Tuesday that part of a recently passed emergency law is unconstitutional.

John Napper of the Yavapai County Superior Court struck down Section 4 of House Bill 2839 which had been introduced, voted on, and signed into law all on March 3 with the unintended consequence of making the political parties’ precinct committeemen (PCs) an appointed instead of elected position for the 2020 election cycle.

Under HB2839, PCs would be appointed by each county’s board of supervisors based on a list of interested candidates put forth by each county’s political party chairs.

Napper’s order of judgment came on the heels of an admission by the State of Arizona that the AZGOP and Yavapai County Republican Party plaintiffs who filed the lawsuit on March 15 were correct that Section 4 represented an unconstitutional special law, as it operated to abolish a single class of elections for a single year.

The lawsuit against the State of Arizona and the Yavapai County Election Department described Section 4 as “a poorly worded provision” which “differed radically” from the other three sections. The provision unlawfully suppressed the rights of PC candidates to stand for election while also suppressed the rights of voters to elect their PCs, the plaintiffs argued.

HB2839 also provided for the appointment of only one PC per precinct, even though there is supposed to be one PC for every 125 persons in each precinct. Instead, the emergency law would have left each precinct with only one PC regardless of the precinct’s population.

The lawsuit noted that the mistaken passage of HB2839 with Section 4 gave the Yavapai County Republican Committee the sole authority to select its PCs, authority which the group “neither wants, needs, nor considers to be legitimate or democratic.”

The State’s response, however, did not concede to any of the four other claims put forth in the lawsuit.

“The Court does not reach the issues of whether Sec. 4 of HB 2839 (2022) violates other portions of the Arizona Constitution, or the issue of legislative intent, because the Court finds that Sec. 4 of HB 2839 (2022) is unconstitutional on other grounds,” Napper wrote.

The judge specifically noted that Section 4 “is severable” from the rest of the legislation, so that his ruling will not affect the other election-related changes included in the bill.

READ MORE ABOUT HB2839

New State Election Bill Signed Into Law Last Week Could Be Gutted This Week

New State Election Bill Signed Into Law Last Week Could Be Gutted This Week

By Terri Jo Neff |

An internal conflict appears to be brewing over state legislation which passed through the House and the Senate on March 3 on combined votes of 85 to 0 and was immediately signed into law the same day.

House Bill 2839 was intended to address concerns with statutory deadlines for candidates to qualify to run in Arizona’s 2022 primary elections, the first based on the state’s recently redrawn 30 legislative and 9 congressional districts.

HB2839 was written as an emergency law to provide new rules for this year’s primary election nominating petitions. Passage required a bipartisan, supermajority margin of at least two-thirds of both the 60-member House and 30-member Senate to be become immediately effective once Gov. Doug Ducey affixed his signature.

Yet within 48 hours of the emergency law taking affect, questions began to be asked about one of the four sections of the new law. By Monday morning, the majority of legislators who voted for HB2839 conceded they either misunderstood Section 4 or had not read the bill before casting a vote.  

Section 4 contains a new, this-year-only nominating petition requirement which allows candidates for political party precinct committeemen (PCs) to skip signature gathering. But it also gives a political party’s local county committee sole authority to decide which one candidate must be appointed by the county board of supervisors to every PC position for that party.   

In Arizona, a PC’s minimum duties under state law involve assisting their political party in voter registration and also providing voter assistance during an election. But a key PC duty involves a vacancy in a county or state office. In most instances, it is a county’s PCs of the party of the prior officeholder who nominate the candidate(s) to fill the vacancy. 

The new law also contains other provisions in Section 4 which are confusing, such as providing for only one PC for each precinct, when some precincts currently have several PCs.

Senate President Karen Fann admitted on Sunday that Section 4 resulted in an unintended change in state law. She spent the weekend and Monday working with members to design a plan to repeal Section 4 while also ensuring the thousands of Arizonans interested in serving as a two-year terms as party precinct committeemen will be able to get their names on August’s primary election ballot.

Myriad reasons have been put forth by legislators for why they voted in support of HB2839 without questioning the drastic changes to PCs. Some privately admitted they did not read the bill’s language due to its support by legislative leaders. Others say the text of Section 4 was not capitalized, leading them to believe there was nothing being changed to PC-related laws.

Still others say they read the bill but believed Section 4’s reference to selection of PCs by the local party committee applied only to new precincts recently created under the once-a-decade statewide redistricting process. 

New bills were introduced Monday in both chambers – HB2840 and SB1720 – to fully repeal Section 4. However, there are not enough votes yet to pass either bill by the necessary supermajority margin to take affect immediately.  

In addition, many lawmakers say they will not vote to repeal Section 4 unless there is new legislation to properly address the PC nomination petition deadline. 

“I’ve been pushing for a full repeal of this language all weekend,” Rep. Jake Hoffman said Monday. “The section dealing with PC elections that was snuck into the emergency bill last week will be removed.”

Hoffman (R-LD12) also called on Monday for a thorough review of how the PC language was added to the bill without a full disclosure to legislators.

“In my meeting with leadership today I also made it exceedingly clear that there must be accountability for this abhorrent breach of trust and legislative process,” he said.