Election Contest Clouds Peoria City Council Race

On September 4th, a write-in candidate for the Peoria City Council filed an election contest in Maricopa County Superior Court against Denette Dunn, the winner of a special primary election to fill the seat. Based on the pleadings, it does not appear this election contest has much legs.

Delgadillo v. Dunn involves a recent special primary election for a Peoria City Council seat in the Pine District. Delgadillo ran as a write-in candidate and lost, but contends that the City erected various roadblocks that made it practically impossible to run a competitive campaign.  For example, he alleges that his campaign signs were unlawfully removed by City officials, his supporters were subjected to “harassment,” his request for voter data was slow-rolled, and he was disadvantaged by a City-issued postcard that drew undue attention to his competitors.

Without passing on the merits, a few legal issues from this complaint stand out:

    1. The Superior Court is required to hold a hearing within 10 days of filing the complaint. We are on day 14, and the docket shows that no responsive pleading has been filed and no hearing has been set.
    2. The election contest statute allows any voter to contest a person “declared nominated” to office, but a candidate is not “declared nominated” until the official primary election canvass.  In this case, the plaintiff filed suit on September 4th but the City did not canvass the election until September 16th. It is unclear whether an election contest is dismissible for being filed too early.
    3. As a remedy, the candidate requests a new election be held in November, but how can the City be directed to hold a new election without being named as a defendant? The contest statute does not require the City to be named, but as a practical matter, failure to do so significantly complicates the Court’s ability to grant relief.

Expect this lawsuit to be fixed or dismissed, soon.

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