Appeal from the Superior Court in Mohave County. No. S8015CR201301355. The Honorable Derek C. Carlisle, Judge Pro Tempore.
Arizona Attorney General's Office, Phoenix, By Jana Zinman, Chris DeRose, Counsel for Appellee.
Law Offices of Paul Lenkowsky, Bullhead City, By Paul Lenkowsky, Virginia L. Crews, Counsel for Appellant.
Judge Kenton D. Jones delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Presiding Judge Margaret H. Downie and Judge Jon W. Thompson joined.
Kenton D. Jones, Judge
[¶1] In this appeal, we consider whether, by submitting ballots in both Arizona and Colorado's November 2010 elections, Carol Hannah " [k]nowingly vote[d] more than once at any election" in violation of Arizona Revised Statutes (A.R.S.) section 16-1016(2). Because the State was required to prove Hannah cast more than one vote in a single election, and failed to present sufficient evidence to establish this fact, we reverse her conviction and remand for entry of a judgment of acquittal.
FACTS AND PROCEDURAL HISTORY
[¶2] In October 2013, a grand jury returned an indictment against Hannah for one count
of illegal voting in violation of A.R.S. § 16-1016(2), alleging she " voted in the November 2, 2010, General Election in both Mohave County, Arizona, and Adams County, Colorado." At trial, the State presented evidence that on October 18, 2010 Hannah sent a mail-in ballot to the Adams County Clerk & Recorder in the general election held in Colorado on November 2, 2010. She then cast a ballot in person at a polling place in Mohave County, Arizona, in the general election held in Arizona on November 2, 2010. No single candidate or issue appeared on both the Colorado and Arizona ballots.
[¶3] At the close of the State's case-in-chief, Hannah moved for judgment of acquittal under Arizona Rule of Criminal Procedure 20(a). The trial court denied the motion, and the jury found Hannah guilty as charged. The court suspended imposition of sentence and placed Hannah on probation for three years. Hannah timely appealed. We have jurisdiction pursuant to A.R.S. § § 12-120.21(A)(1), 13-4031, and 13-4033(A)(1).
[¶4] On appeal, Hannah challenges the sufficiency of the evidence to support her conviction. We review claims of insufficient evidence to determine whether " 'a rational trier of fact could have found the essential elements of the crime beyond a reasonable doubt.'" State v. Young, 223 Ariz. 447, 450, ¶ 12, 224 P.3d 944 (App. 2010) (quoting State v. Montano, 204 Ariz. 413, 423, ¶ 43, 65 P.3d 61 (2003)). Here, Hannah was charged under subsection (2) of A.R.S. § 16-1016, which provides: " A person is guilty of a class 5 felony who . . . [k]nowingly votes more than once at any election." The State argues the words " any election" do not require proof that votes were cast in the same election or for or against the same candidates. The underlying issue is therefore one of statutory construction, which we review de novo. State v. Gomez, 212 Ariz. 55, 56, ¶ 3, 127 P.3d 873 (2006) (citing State v. Estrada, 201 Ariz. 247, 250, ¶ 15, 34 P.3d 356 (2001)).
[¶5] In construing a statute, " our analysis begins and ends with its plain language if it is unambiguous." State v. Streck, 221 Ariz. 306, 307, ¶ 7, 211 P.3d 1290 (App. 2009) (citing Bentley v. Bldg. Our Future, 217 Ariz. 265, 270, ¶ 13, 172 P.3d 860 (App. 2007)). The language of A.R.S. § 16-1016(2) unambiguously criminalizes the act of voting more than once in a single election. See Ariz. State Democratic Party v. State, 209 Ariz. 103, 111 n.10, ¶ 23, 98 P.3d 214 (App. 2004) (" find[ing] no distinction based on the use of 'any' as contrasted with 'an'" as between the constitutional phrase " influencing any election," Ariz. Const. art. 14, § 18, and the statutory phrase " influencing an election," A.R.S. § 16-919(A), in the course of interpreting the statutory prohibition against political contributions from labor unions), vacated on other grounds, 210 Ariz. 527, 115 P.3d 121 (2005). But see State v. Ramos, 155 Ariz. 468, 470, 747 P.2d 629 (App. 1987) (noting that whether to treat the word " any" as singular or plural " depends upon the context and subject matter of the statute" ) (citing Black's Law Dictionary 86 (5th ed. 1979)). The plain language is further supported by the legislative purpose of A.R.S. § 16-1016: to prevent any voter from having a greater say in the outcome of an election than any other voter by limiting each qualified person to one ballot per election. See A.R.S. § 1-211(A) (directing statutes be construed consistently with the intent of the legislature); Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 563, 84 S.Ct. 1362, 12 L.Ed.2d 506 (1964) (rejecting as unconstitutional a state election system that did not give approximate equal weight to each vote cast); Chavez v. ...