An Intern's Perspective - Local Elections

July 20th 2018

 In recent years there has been a large push and multiple campaigns with a mission to get voters to acknowledge the importance of local government elections during election seasons. Although there are many arguments about how this level of government can directly address your community, there are two important considerations of a local election that are often missed. One consideration is the significance of casting a vote during the primary election. The second is the importance of voting every two years since the Town of Marana has staggered elections for Town Council.

Historically, the primary election determines the winners of open council seats for the Town of Marana. This means candidates for Marana Town Council may be voted in during the primary election without the need of a run-off election at the general election. In the 2018 election there are four seats open for Marana Town Council and the four highest vote-getters will win the election. The exception would be if there was any sort of tie that would require a run-off vote. In the event of a run-off vote, only the individuals in that instance of a tie would then move to the general election ballot so that voters can determine their remaining victor(s).    

Arizona is a semi-closed primary in which registered voters can only vote for candidates in their own party. Being semi-closed still allows independent voters the ability to cast a ballot. However, there are more steps required for independent voters.

Independent voters are technically considered “party not designated” so when partisan ballots arrive for individuals registered for a party then the independent voters will also get a notification that they can vote. Independent voters will then need to reach out to Pima County Recorder’s Office, (520)724-4330, to request either a municipal-only ballot or a partisan ballot. Choosing a partisan ballot in this instance would not change the overall status as an independent. Independent voters constitute 31% of the overall registered voters in Pima County.

Each election, Marana residents are able to vote in three or four of the seven council seats. One common question pertains to the purpose or motivation behind staggered elections. Marana Town Council is a body of seven non-partisan members elected by voters with staggered terms. Staggering terms means that every two years there is an election and only a certain number of seats are open. This is compared to non-staggering terms that have all positions open at once every four years.

In the 2018 primary election there are 4 seats open for Marana Town Council, while in 2020 there will be two council seats along with the Mayor’s seat for election. The implication of having staggering terms every two years is that there is more consistency in policy setting.

The Town of Marana has a Council-Manager form of government, which is different from the Strong Mayor form of government. In a Strong Mayor form the Mayor is in charge of both the creation of policy along with Town Council members in addition to the management of day-to-day operations. Within the Council-Manager form of government the Town Council creates policy while the Town Manager implements policy per Council instruction and manages the day-to-day operations. The Town Manager in a Council-Manager form of government is an appointed position by the Town Council and is an at-will employee.

Policies may be difficult to implement if all the elected officials are constantly changing every four years in the event of non-staggering terms. By having staggering elections it provides more policy consistency by having a certain number of council members remain in office. 

If residents in the Town of Marana are looking to make a large impact, then they may consider voting every two years in the primary election regardless if it is a presidential-election or not. Currently, there are four seats open on Marana Town Council in the 2018 primary election. The Town of Marana’s official candidate filings, in alphabetical order, include: Mace Bravin, Patti Comerford, Jeff Gray, Herb Kai, Jack Neubeck, John Officer, and Jon Post.

 If you would like to participate in the primary election (August 28th, 2018) and have a voice in your local government, please register by July 30th, 2018. The link below contains information for residents who want to register to vote, find their polling stations, request an early ballot, see Town Council candidate filings, and see more information regarding independent voters:

            If you have additional questions about this year’s local election please reach out to the Town of Marana Town Clerk’s Office at 520-382-1962


Andrea Sirois is a post-graduate intern at the Town of Marana during summer 2018.