Mesa making it easier to run for mayor, council - East Valley Tribune: Mesa

Mesa making it easier to run for mayor, council

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Posted: Friday, April 20, 2012 4:43 pm

Mesa will likely make it easier for its residents to run for the City Council or seek the mayor’s office.

The City Council is expected on Monday to change the requirements for candidates to appear on the ballot. Under the proposed changes, a candidate for mayor would need to collect 1,000 signatures to get on the ballot and council candidates would need just 250 signatures.

That’s generally fewer signatures than required now — and likely a substantial decrease in the future.

Without the change, future mayoral candidates would probably need to collect more than 8,000 signatures. Council candidates would likely need 2,100 signatures in some cases.

Vice Mayor Scott Somers said the higher standards were onerous.

“It should be easier to run for office, not harder,” Somers said.

The council is looking to pass the change on Monday with an emergency clause, a rarely used approach in Mesa that would prohibit residents from attempting to repeal the new requirements through referendum.

The emergency clause allows the change to take effect immediately instead of a 30-day period for other ordinances. Council members said they want the ordinance in place right away because nominating signatures are due May 30, and an immediate change will make it easier for people to run. Mayor Scott Smith is seeking re-election, along with council members Alex Finter, Dennis Kavanaugh and Dave Richins.

Finter said the emergency clause makes it easier for residents to run for office in this election cycle.

“I just didn’t want to make people think that we’re gaming the system,” he said.

To qualify for the ballot in Mesa, the number of signatures required has been 5 percent of ballots cast in the previous election for that post. That’s varied from less than 200 for low-turnout council districts to more than 2,400 for the mayor’s office. But in the future, the number of required signatures will likely triple because elections have shifted from low-turnout spring events to high-turnout fall elections.

Mesa is considering the change because of a new law passed in 2011 that allows cities to let mayoral candidates appear on the ballot with 1,000 signatures. Several council members were concerned that the law did not reduce the requirements for council candidates. For Mesa, that meant that candidates for high-turnout areas like council districts 5 and 6 in east Mesa would need to collect more signatures than mayoral candidates.

The Legislature approved a law this year that allows cities to ease requirements for council races, to 250 signatures, or 5 percent of the previous election, whichever is less.

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