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Clayton v. West - 6/24/2021

Arizona Supreme Court holds that A.R.S. § 16-341(A) applies to independent presidential electors, but not to independent presidential candidates.

After Kanye West sought to qualify for the Arizona ballot as an independent U.S. Presidential candidate, an Arizona citizen sued to keep West and his designated electors off the ballot.  The plaintiff argued that West and his electors could not qualify for the ballot under A.R.S. § 16-341 because (1) West was registered as a republican; and (2) West’s electors failed to file the requisite statements of interest.  The superior court concluded that the plaintiff was likely to succeed on the merits of both arguments and granted injunctive relief. 

West appealed directly to the Arizona Supreme Court.  The Court affirmed the superior court’s order, but not its reasoning.

In particular, the Court disagreed that § 16-341(A) precluded West, a registered republican, from qualifying for the ballot as an independent presidential candidate.  Section 16-341(A) outlines the process for nominating a “qualified elector who is not a registered member of a political party recognized pursuant to this title” as a candidate for public office.  But, under Arizona law, a “qualified elector” must be an Arizona resident.  Thus, accepting the plaintiffs’ argument would prevent non-residents from appearing as an independent presidential candidate in Arizona.  To avoid this absurd result, the Court reasoned that the “public office” contemplated by § 16-341(A) refers to the office of independent presidential elector rather than the office of independent presidential candidate.

The Court agreed, however, that § 16-341(I) prevented West from qualifying for the Arizona ballot.  Section 16-341(I)’s plain text requires a candidate for public office to file a statement of interest before collecting nomination petition signatures.  Because none of West’s electors ever filed a statement of interest, the Court agreed that none of the signatures gathered by those electors were valid.  It thus held that West’s electors did not timely file nomination petitions to qualify for the ballot, thereby also precluding West from appearing on the ballot.  A.R.S. § 16-341(J)-(K). 

Justice Montgomery wrote the opinion; Vice Chief Justice Timmer and Justices Bolick and Lopez joined.

Posted by: Hayleigh S. Crawford

Osborn Maledon represented the Plaintiff/Appellee in this matter.

Posted On: 8/9/2021