Legal validity of candidate petition signatures up to courts
KINGMAN – Political candidates running for the state legislature must collect the required signatures to be placed on the election ballot, but the signatures and addresses are not verified unless specifically challenged, said Allen Tempert, director Mohave County Elections.
The signatures are required to show that a person is a bona fide candidate for office, and also that at least a few hundred voters would support them if they ran, he said.
“The validity of the signatures are left to the public to investigate and allow them a legal avenue, a petition challenge, if they feel that the candidate was not following the law of gathering signatures,” Tempert said.
Kingman City Clerk Sydney Muhle confirmed that signatures to run for City Council are also not verified line by line.
“Per the League of Arizona Cities and Towns, several Arizona Supreme Court decisions (Sims Printing Co. v. Fromiller; Hunt v. Superior Ct ex rel Navajo County) determined that the legal validity of candidate petitions are the responsibility of the courts,” Muhle wrote in an email.
“For candidate elections, the City Clerk is the filing officer and verifies that the appropriate forms are turned in with the candidate’s petitions and that the minimum number of signatures are submitted by the candidate,” she continued.
Muhle also explained her role in checking questionable signatures.
“Challengers are required to specify their disputes, and upon that, the clerk initiates the verification process for the court to make their determination,” Muhle wrote. “A challenge has not occurred during my tenure as clerk; however, I know we had a couple several years ago.”
So what exactly happens to the petitions once Muhle gets ahold of them?
First, she makes sure that there are enough signatures. But she keeps an eye out for any signature that might pose a problem for candidates in the future.
“Any time I notice discrepancies, such as a signature from someone residing outside of the City limits or a signature not completed properly, I point it out to the candidate and notify them that in the event of a challenge that signature would likely be invalid,” Muhle wrote.
She then asks the candidate if they would prefer to roll the dice and keep the signature in question, or if they would like to cross it off the petition.
“I have had candidates cross those signatures out, either on their own before filing or as I find them, while others decide to leave them in,” she wrote. “It is entirely the candidate’s choice and for the court to determine after that.”
Anyone who’s an American citizen and legal resident of a legislative district within the state of Arizona is allowed to run for office. All state representatives, including the governor, must file a petition.
Candidates can pick up nominating petitions at Mohave County Elections and must gather a certain number of signatures based on voter registration and the office for which they’re running in order to be placed on the ballot. Otherwise, they have to run as a write-in candidate.
The minimum number of signatures needed for both Kingman mayoral and council candidates is 537. Muhle added that citizens have the right to nominate candidates by petition as dictated by the Arizona Constitution.