The New Candidate Filing Deadline Will Catch Campaigns By Surprise

In conjunction with moving up the primary election to August 4, 2020, the Legislature passed a bill also moving up the deadline for candidates to file their nomination petition signatures. This earlier deadline will affect all federal, statewide, legislative, and county candidates – and potentially city candidates, depending on local charter provisions. This will probably catch many candidates by surprise.

Here are the consequences:
  1. Without the change, the petition filing window would have been April 27 – May 27, 2020. Historically, this filing window largely fell after the Legislature adjourned sine die and thus legislative incumbents traditionally had a few weeks to collect signatures following adjournment. With the change, the filing window will be March 7 – April 6, 2020. Since the session will be in full swing, incumbents might have to collect their signatures earlier than normal or hire paid circulators to make up the difference.
  2. Candidates will know the minimum signature threshold months earlier. Prior law required the threshold to be calculated based on a percentage of registered voters as of March 1, which meant it was not until late March that candidates knew the precise number of required signatures. Now signature requirements are based on January 2 voter registration numbers and therefore will be available by late January.
  3. The Legislature only needed to move up the filing deadline by 3 weeks to correspond with the primary, but it chose 7 weeks. The extra 4 weeks will give county recorders more time to review challenged signatures and courts more time to resolve candidate challenges. There is still a very short deadline to file candidate challenges, but much more time to resolve those challenges.
  4. Candidate nomination petitions will have to be updated with the new primary election date in the petition header. While SB1154 allows candidates to turn in petitions using the old primary date if collected prior to August 27, 2019 (the general effective date of the bill), after that date a candidate should have updated petition forms with the new August 4, 2020 primary election date.
Why it matters:

A perfect storm may be brewing in light of the election calendar. The entire Arizona political class—from candidates, to parties, to consultants—will have to move up their ballot qualification efforts to the same period the Presidential Preference Election occurs on March 17, 2020 and while the Legislature is still in session. Something is bound to fall through the cracks.

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