By statute, political candidates in Arizona usually must list their actual residence address in their nomination paper and petitions, to qualify for the ballot. See A.R.S. §§ 16-311(A), 16-314(C).
In this case, a candidate for the Arizona Legislature did not list her actual residence address. Instead she listed a private mailbox address at a UPS Store near her residence.
The trial court ruled that the candidate qualified for the ballot anyway, because she substantially complied with the statutes. The Arizona Supreme Court, sitting in division, affirmed in relevant part, reasoning as follows.
In Arizona, courts generally do not disqualify candidates from the ballot for “mere technical” violations of nomination requirements. Rather, courts consider whether candidates “substantially complied” with nomination requirements. The inquiry turns on whether a violation is likely to “confuse or mislead” voters.
Here, by listing a private mailbox address instead of her actual residence address in her nomination paper and petitions, the candidate violated nomination requirements. But the violation was not likely to confuse or mislead voters. After all, the purpose of the address requirement is to assure voters that the candidate resides in the area she proposes to represent. And the mailbox address listed by the candidate was near her actual residence—it was in the same county, legislative district, municipality, and zip code. Thus, voters would not be confused about whether the candidate resides in the relevant area.
Moreover, the candidate did not intend to confuse or mislead voters. She mistakenly believed that she was not required to list her actual residence address, since she is married to a judge who is legally entitled to limit public access to that information. And she had previously run for the same office using the same private mailbox address, without legal challenge.
The Court reached a different conclusion, however, regarding the candidate’s role as a circulator. By statute, persons who circulate nomination petitions to get signatures for a candidate (known as “circulators”) must also list their actual residential address. See A.R.S. § 16-315(B). The purpose of this address requirement is different. It is to ensure that circulators can be contacted if questions arise about the validity of signatures they gathered.
Here, the candidate was a circulator for some of her own nomination petitions. And in that role, she again listed a private mailbox address instead of her actual residence address. That violation, the Court held, thwarted the purpose of the address requirement for circulators and thus did not substantially comply with the statute. The Court therefore invalidated all signatures from petitions that the candidate herself circulated. But even so, the candidate still had enough signatures to qualify for the ballot.
Chief Justice Brutinel authored the opinion. Vice Chief Justice Timmer and Justices Gould and Montgomery joined.
Posted by: Josh Whitaker