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La Sota: Election integrity and the Timothy Dickman petition challenge


Maintaining the integrity of elections requires constant vigilance. The Arizona Secretary of State just sent 13 criminal referrals to the Arizona Attorney General for possible forgery on candidate petition sheets. As such, it is disappointing ​that Paradise Valley Mayor Jerry Bien-Willner does not take this issue seriously.

Earlier this month, I represented Paradise Valley Councilmember Ellen Andeen in a court challenge to nomination petitions submitted by now former council candidate Timothy Dickman.

The Arizona Legislature prescribes minimum signature requirements that candidates need to obtain to appear on the ballot. Mr. Dickman simply did not submit enough qualified signatures. Mr. Dickman actually submitted photocopied duplicates of signatures he collected, which of course is not allowed — each signer may only sign once for a candidate. I have no reason to believe that was anything but a mistake, and Mr. Dickman withdrew his candidacy before our trial on the challenge because he so clearly lacked the requisite number of signatures.

In Arizona, we rely on private individuals to police the signature requirement laws by following the standard process to file suit in court to challenge candidates who don’t have enough signatures to appear on the ballot. That is exactly what occurred in this case. Otherwise, Mr. Dickman’s name would have appeared on the ballot on the strength of unregistered voters who are not lawfully permitted to sign these petition sheets and photocopied duplicate signatures, that is, two signatures submitted for one voter who signed for Mr. Dickman.

Ms. Andeen put up her own money to ensure the integrity of the nomination petition laws and because she cares about Paradise Valley. If private individuals did not do this, the system would be even more susceptible to gamesmanship, and even fraud, than it already is. It is surprising that someone of Mayor Bien-Willner’s station is unable to grasp this when he argued on social media that challenging signatures denies election choice. The mayor seems to think our laws are nothing more than an unnecessary nuisance when they would impact his political allies. 

It is fortunate that people like Ms. Andeen, and the dozens of others who filed challenges, do not embrace the mayor’s soft stance on election integrity political ideals. This vigilance is absolutely necessary to preserve election integrity and trust in our system. 

Reader reactions, pro or con, are welcomed at AzOpinions@iniusa.org.