McLaughlin v. Bennett (defending the secret ballot)

Posted on June 14, 2010 | Type: Case
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Case Background

The secret ballot's primary virtue is that it allows citizens to vote their conscience without coercion or fear of retaliation. McLaughlin v. Bennett involves a labor union's challenge to an upcoming November 2010 general election ballot measure that would amend the Arizona Constitution by making secret ballot elections a fundamental right in all government-administered elections. In June 2009, the Arizona Legislature passed Senate Concurrent Resolution 1026, which proposes the following constitutional amendment:

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

Proposition 108, if adopted by Arizona voters, would guarantee free and democratic elections in Arizona by requiring that all government-administered elections be decided by secret ballot. The Goldwater Institute believes all elections should be protected by secret ballot and has decided to defend the case.

The Stakes

  • Free and democratic elections: voters should be able to choose their representatives without coercion or fear of retaliation. A voter need not justify or otherwise explain his or her vote to anyone.

  • Protecting Arizona’s initiative and referendum procedures: Arizona courts recognize that the right to initiatives and referendums is fundamental and vital.  Here, Plaintiffs waited until the last minute to file this lawsuit, which means that if the court prevents the measure from being on the ballot, there is not enough time for the Legislature to pass an alternate resolution or for voters to spearhead an initiative.  Those who disagree with a ballot measure should not be allowed to file a lawsuit in such a way as to deprive voters of their right to consider and vote on the issue.

Case Documents

September 3, 2010 Full Opinion of Arizona Supreme Court to remove Proposition 108 from ballot

August 3, 2010 Initial Arizona Supreme Court Ruling

July 23, 2010 Reply Brief

July 12, 2010 Opening Brief in Arizona Supreme Court

June 30, 2010 Maricopa County Superior Court Ruling

May 18, 2010 Defendants' Memorandum in Opposition to Plaintiffs' Verified Complaint for Special Action

May 17, 2010 Verified Answers

May 17, 2010 Motion to Intervene

Case Timeline

May 7, 2010: Plaintiffs file their Complaint.

May 17, 2010: Goldwater Institute files Motion to Intervene and Verified Answers.

May 18, 2010: Judge Robert Oberbillig grants the Goldwater Institute's Motion to Intervene.

June 11, 2010: Goldwater Institute files a Memorandum in Opposition to plaintiffs' requests for relief.

June 29, 2010: Oral arguments before Judge Robert Oberbillig at 11 a.m. at the Old Court House, 125 W. Washington Street, Courtroom #309.

June 30, 2010: Judge Oberbillig grants the plaintiff's injunction. Goldwater Institute plans immediate appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court.

July 2, 2010: Goldwater Institute files notice of appeal.

August 3, 2010: Arizona Supreme Court upholds the Superior Court ruling.

How can I help?

  • The stakes are high, help build positive press. Write letters to the editor for your local newspaper and let them know how you feel.
  • The Goldwater Institute's Scharf-Norton Constitutional Litigation Center is able to defend your constitutional freedom because of the generous donations of private individuals.  R. Evan Scharf and John R. Norton III have arranged for a $1 million challenge grant to establish and fund the Goldwater Institute Scharf-Norton Center for Constitutional Litigation.  To donate to the litigation center or become a member of the Goldwater Institute, please call (602) 462-5000.

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