PHOENIX — Political candidates who circulate their own petitions can’t shield their address from the public, the Arizona Supreme Court ruled Monday, no matter to whom they are married.
In a brief order, the state’s high court effectively rejected claims by Republican Shawnna Bolick that she could use a UPS store as her address on all of her nominating papers because she is married to a judge. The justices said laws shielding the addresses of judges, police officers and others — and their families — from public disclosure does not trump laws requiring those who circulate petitions to list addresses so they can be contacted.
The ruling invalidates 290 of the signatures Bolick collected on petition sheets she personally circulated and submitted to the secretary of state in her bid for a second term in the state House of Representatives.
But the justices said the state law requiring an actual home address does not apply when candidates seek to gather signatures electronically through an online portal. And they concluded there were enough of those valid signatures to put her name on the ballot.
The high court — with her husband abstaining from the case — did conclude that candidates are free to list mailing address elsewhere on other nominating papers. They said Bolick “substantially complied’’ with the legal requirements and that the error “was unlikely to have misled or confused voters about the candidate’s ability to run as a resident of Legislative District 20.’’
In issuing the order, the justices effectively rejected Bolick’s legal claim that the fact that she is married to Supreme Court Justice Clint Bolick entitles her to list a mailing service on all of her nominating papers instead of where she actually lives.
That is at least a partial victory for Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, the state’s top elected Democrat.
In filings with the state’s high court, Hobbs acknowledged that the law allows judges, prosecutors, police officers and public defenders — and their families — to remove their addresses from certain public documents. But Hobbs said that is not the case when these people offer themselves for public office.
The underlying case involved a bid by Judith Lohr to have Bolick’s name removed from the ballot.
That would have had major implications.
Taking her name off the ballot would have left Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, as the only Republican seeking the two seats. That, in turn, would have improved the chances that one of the two Democrats could get elected, absent a last-minute bid by a write-in candidate.
And if that happened — everything else being equal — the Republicans would lose their 31-29 edge in
While Hobbs argued for a strict interpretation of the requirement of candidates to disclose addresses, Attorney General Mark Brnovich, married to a federal judge, took the opposite stance.
In his own legal filings, Brnovich, a Republican like Bolick, warned the justices that if they accept Hobbs’ view of the law, that affects every judge who seeks reelection — by definition, including the justices themselves who stand for reelection every six years — as well as any county attorney or sheriff who wants another term in office, as well as law enforcement officers who want to run for office.
The law also covers domestic violence victims, but with slightly different provisions.
Brnovich said there are good reasons to shield addresses
“It is no secret that judges, prosecutors, and victims of domestic violence live in constant threat of retaliation from violent criminals,’’ he wrote. “It defies reason that when the legislature enacted the Secured Registrant Law they intended to leave open a gaping loophole which demands this private information be publicly disclosed through the candidate nominating laws.’’
Hobbs is not disputing the safety issues. But she said told the justices that’s not how the laws actually read.
“While there may be valid policy reasons to, consistent with the attorney general’s position, consider a process to expand the protections of (the law) to include candidate filings, that policy debate must be had at the legislature, not in an abbreviated, whirlwind proceeding before this court,’’ she wrote.
Hobbs also disputed Brnovich’s contention that her interpretation could keep domestic violence victims from running for office.
In those cases, she said, the program assigns them a substitute address, which Arizona law makes their “lawful address of record’’ for all legal purposes.
For others, like judges and police officers, Hobbs said the law protects only certain identifying information, like records in the county assessor’s office, information held by the Department of Transportation, and voter registration records. What it does not include, she said, are candidate filings.
The justices partly agreed, saying addresses are required when candidates circulate their own paper nominating petitions. But they said there’s no requirement to have home addresses on other nominating papers, including those not circulated by the candidates themselves.
This isn’t the first time Hobbs and Brnovich have been on opposite sides of legal disputes.
Hobbs has sided with the Arizona Board of Regents in its contention that Brnovich has no legal authority to sue the board over how its tuition is set. And Hobbs sided with those who sought to let initiative circulators gather signatures using an existing online portal available for candidate nominating petitions, a bid that Brnovich opposed.