KINGMAN – The primary election canvass and subsequent resolution approved by Council at a special meeting Wednesday appeared to put the matter of write-in candidates to bed by declaring they would not advance to the general election due to failing to secure 537 votes in the primary. But one write-in, Ken Watkins, has retained legal representation alleging the City violated Arizona statute in how it handled the situation.
Watkins said he has retained Roopali Desai of Coppersmith Brockelman PLC to represent the top four write-in candidates: Deana Nelson, Scott Holtry, Harley Pettit and himself.
“We feel our four names should move forward to the general election, and we hope for a successful outcome,” Watkins said, adding that he’s contacted the other candidates and they feel the same. “We feel that they really should re-examine this or bring it back to Council and have them re-evaluate their position on it.”
According to an email forwarded to the Daily Miner by Watkins and Steve Robinson, District 1 Director of the Mohave County Republican Party, Desai writes to City Attorney Carl Cooper and sums up the issue with the following statements:
“The City Council violated Arizona statute and the City Code by adopting the Resolution and, specifically, Section 7 of the Resolution,” Desai wrote.
Section 7 declares that the five write in candidates, those mentioned above in addition to Timothy Griepp, failed to receive the necessary 537 votes to advance to November’s general election ballot. That finding is pursuant to ARS 16-645. However, Desai says that statute applies to partisan elections, which Council elections are not. Therefore, the proper statute to be utilized is ARS 9-821.01 subsection F, she writes.
The resolution passed by a vote of 3-1 Tuesday, with Councilwoman Vickie Kress casting the lone dissenting vote. Vice Mayor Jen Miles, and councilmembers Stuart Yocum and Jamie Scott Stehly, constituted the majority.
Desai also writes that the City correctly used ARS 9-821.01 in determining SueAnn Mello Keener will sit on Council. However, it referenced a different statute, 16-645, when it came to the write-in candidates.
“Inexplicably, however, the City Council erroneously relies on a statute governing partisan election (ARS 16-645) when addressing the qualified write-in candidates,” Desai wrote to Cooper. “The statute is wholly inapplicable, and the impropriety of applying that statute was brought to your and the City Council’s attention numerous times prior to the adoption of Resolution No. 5173. Yet the City illegally proceeded nonetheless, and ignored its own City ordinances.”
Desai calls on Council to “correct this illegal action immediately” by calling a Council meeting to adopt an amended resolution that would place the top four write-ins on November’s ballot. Watkins hopes the City takes that action so litigation does not need to progress.
“Obviously, we do not want to get any kind of lawyers involved if not necessary, but we feel they’re (City) interpreting the law wrong, or using the wrong statute,” Watkins said.
He continued by saying “it seems like that may be our only option,” in reference to litigation. Watkins added the write-ins realize that should the City issue an amended resolution two candidates would win and two would not.
“But at least the people’s wishes are being made known and that’s what’s most important,” Watkins said. “Representing the voters and respecting their rights.”