Ariz. SC strikes down secret ballot measure

Jessica M. Karmasek Sep. 3, 2010, 3:52pm


PHOENIX (Legal Newsline) - Arizona's Supreme Court recently ruled a controversial ballot measure, backed by the state's Legislature and the Arizona Chamber of Commerce, was unconstitutional in its original form.

Promoted by Gov. Jan Brewer at the behest of the anti-union Save Our Secret Ballot Coalition, Proposition 108 sought to affirm the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot both in elections for public office and in union-representation decisions.

In its Aug. 3 ruling, the Arizona Supreme Court concurred with a lower court ruling from July that the proposed measure violates the state constitution's requirement that amendments put to voter referendum deal with just one subject.

Justice A. John Pelander wrote in the opinion, "The question presented is whether Proposition 108, a constitutional amendment referred to the people by the legislature, complies with the separate amendment rule of Article 21, Section 1 of the Arizona Constitution. The superior court concluded that Proposition 108 violates that rule." The Supreme Court agreed with the lower court's ruling, and entered an order affirming the court's judgment.

The measure sought to preserve the right to vote by secret ballot for local, state and federal elections for public office, as well as for organizing unions.

Proposition 108 states, "To preserve and protect the fundamental right of individuals to vote by secret ballot, where local, state or federal law requires elections for public offices or for ballot measures, or requires designations or authorizations for employee representation, the right of individuals to vote by secret ballot shall be guaranteed."

However, the proposition would have added a new Section 36 to Article 2 of the state's constitution, entitled "Right to Secret Ballot."

In May, United Food & Commercial Workers Local 99 filed a special action, alleging the measure violated the constitution.

Following a hearing, the superior court rejected a defense asserted by the S.O.S. Ballot Coalition -- including the state Chamber of Commerce and Legislature -- ruling that the provisions in Proposition 108 are not "sufficiently interrelated to constitute a single amendment."

In the opinion Pelander wrote, the Court agreed, "Proposition 108's provisions are not sufficiently interrelated to satisfy the separate amendment rule. Therefore, we hold that Proposition 108 violates Article 21, Section 1 of the Arizona Constitution."

From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at

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