City of Tucson, et al. v. State of Arizona, et al. (8/18/2014)

August 25, 2014

Arizona Court of Appeals Division Two Holds That A.R.S. § 16-204(E) Impedes Constitutional Authority of Charter Cities to the Extent It Conflicts with Charter.


A.R.S. § 16-204(E) was amended in 2012 to require that municipal candidate elections be held simultaneously with state and national candidate elections.  The cities of Tucson and Phoenix sought an injunction to enjoin the State from requiring their compliance with the requirements of this amended statute.  The superior court granted a permanent injunction and the State appealed. 

The Court of Appeals affirmed.  The Arizona Constitution provides that a city with a population of more than 3,500 people may establish a charter.  Ariz. Const. art. XIII,  § 2.  A charter city has autonomy over matters of local interest, including with respect to structuring their own governments.  While off-cycle elections raise competing policy concerns, these concerns are entrusted to city voters.    

The Court rejected the State’s argument that the constitutional authority of city charters is limited to laws that are “purely municipal.”  Many municipal issues affect both local and statewide interests, and a statewide interest does not necessarily trump a city charter. 

The Court also rejected the State’s arguments that § 16-204(E) implicated a statewide interest.  The Court questioned whether the 1996 legislative declaration, which was relied upon by the State as evidence of the statewide interest, was applicable to the 2012 amendment at issue.  In addition, the Court noted that the interests affected—such as costs—were city interests. 

Judge Miller authored the opinion; Judges Howard and Vásquez joined.