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9:41 AM Sat, Dec. 15th

Prescott prepares to move ahead with 2015 election

PRESCOTT -  A 2012 state law that called for all elections in the state to take place in the fall of even-numbered years apparently will not affect Prescott's upcoming 2015 City Council election.

On Tuesday, the council agreed to enter an agreement with Yavapai County for the services necessary to conduct the city's primary and general elections in the fall of 2015.

City Attorney Jon Paladini explained that Prescott earlier joined with other Arizona communities in challenging the state election-consolidation law.

Early on, the cities of Phoenix and Tucson contested the law, maintaining that it infringed on their authority to govern based on their city charters.

About a year ago, a Pima County Superior Court Judge agreed with the two municipalities and ruled that scheduling of local candidate elections is "a matter of local concern," and that Phoenix and Tucson did not have to conduct their elections in even-numbered years.

The State of Arizona subsequently appealed the ruling, Paladini said, and the matter currently is in the hands of the Arizona Court of Appeals.

Meanwhile, several other Arizona charter cities opted to file lawsuits of their own regarding the consolidated elections law. Prescott joined with the City of Winslow to contest the law, filing a lawsuit in Navajo County Superior Court.

"It is basically the same case; they all have the same arguments," Paladini said of the various ongoing lawsuits challenging the law. The basic question, he said: "Can the Legislature change the city's charter?"

As the Tucson/Phoenix appeal runs its course at the appellate level, the elections-consolidation law is on hold. Paladini told the council that the court granted a stay of enforcement "so the case can wind its way through (the appeal)."

That means that even though the 2012 law initially made the new consolidated-election rules effective in 2014, the city likely will be able to move ahead with its 2015 election, as scheduled.

"I would suspect that the (Tucson/Phoenix) case won't be fully decided by (Prescott's 2015 election)," Paladini said, pointing out that the Arizona Court of Appeals' ruling could end up going to the Arizona Supreme Court as well.

The city's agreement with Yavapai County generated little discussion by the council this week.

City Clerk Dana DeLong explained that the agreement called for the county to conduct the city's "vote by mail" election, with the city paying an amount based on its number of registered voters.

While the county's rate is $2.75 per registered voter, DeLong said a discount is available to the city by handling several necessary election services, such as serving as a ballot drop-off site, and serving as a ballot replacement site.

The council agreed that DeLong's office should pursue the discount, which would bring the county rate to $2.50 per registered voter.

Prescott's registered voters stood at 26,030 in the 2013 election, DeLong said. That brings the city's elections cost to about $65,000.

Follow Cindy Barks on Twitter @Cindy_Barks.