In January, Oro Valley town clerk Julie Bower rejected more than 3,000 voter signatures that were requesting a vote on the town's purchase of the El Conquistador Country Club. Bower rejected the petitions on the basis that the petitions submitted did not contain a town assigned serial number in the right bottom corner.
The rejection set off two continuing events. One, as we reported on last Thursday, is the creation of a group focussed on recalling Mayor Hiremath, and Council Member's Hornat, Snider and Waters.
The other event is a legal action on Bower's decision.
In round 1, Bower's rejection of the petitions was upheld in Superior Court. This is the case of Arrett and Lamonna v. Bower (Pima County Superior Court Case No. C20150346). The judge ruled that the town acted properly in applying the rules that the town had used.
Round 2 is an appeal of the decision by the Arrett and Lamonna. The basis of the appeal is whether the requirement of a serial number on the bottom right hand corner is constitutional.
It is on this basis that the plaintiff is appealing the court decision. (Case No. 2 CA-CV 2015-0017) In order to win, the court will have to agree that the serial number requirement "...offends the essence of a fundamental right" to referendum.
According to the plaintiff's brief in this case:
"Our constitution’s most important provision cannot be destroyed by a form requirement of a “serial number” on the corner of a petition unless such a requirement “supplements” the constitutional purpose. To “supplement” is defined in Random House Dictionary, as “something added to complete a thing, supply a deficiency, or reinforce or extend a whole."
The practically useless serial number requirement does not supplement the most important right of referendum."(Source: Plaintiff Brief to Court of Appeals, Page 25).
The defendant, the Town Of Oro Valley, replied in their brief this past Friday. They assert that:
"The uncontroverted evidence establishes that the petitions submitted did not comply with the requirements."The Town Of Oro Valley also believes that administrative requirements, such as paper size and the number of signatures per page, provide "... for consistent regulations to establish an efficient, fair, and equitable referendum process....Such regulations prevent falsification of signatures and of the petition pages themselves...The ultimate goal of these laws is to protect the public and preserve the integrity of the process and the authenticity of the petitions and signatures." (Defendant Brief, Page 2).
The requirement of a serial number on a petition is not mere window dressing, according to the town:
"Among the regulations to preserve the integrity of the [referendum] process is the requirement that signatures may not be collected on a petition until a serial number for the petition is issued." Thus, the appearance of the serial number on the document is proof that such has been obtained and the signature collection process can begin.Arrett and Lamonna have until tomorrow to submit a brief that responds to the town's position. Then, the 3 judge court of appeals will hear oral arguments Wednesday at 3pm.
This is going to be one interesting week.
Our thanks to Oro Valley Communications Director Misti Nowak for so quickly providing the town's brief.