Judge gives go-ahead for Pearce recall election - Ahwatukee Foothills News: Valley And State

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Judge gives go-ahead for Pearce recall election

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Posted: Friday, August 12, 2011 4:37 pm

A judge late Friday gave the go-ahead for a Nov. 8 recall election of Senate President Russell Pearce.

Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Mark Brain rejected each of the contentions of Lisa Hauser, attorney for supporters of the Mesa Republican, that there were legal and procedural errors in both the petition itself and in the way people signed it.

The ruling, however, is not the last word. Hauser said she intends to ask the Arizona Supreme Court to review the matter.

Hauser had argued that none of the 10,365 signatures that state and county officials had determined to be valid should be counted.

One of her theories was that the Arizona Constitution requires that those who circulate recall petitions sign an oath attesting that the signatures gathered are ``genuine.'' But the oath on the petitions did not use that word but instead said that the circulator vows that he or she circulated the petition, that each individual signed the petition in the circulator's presence, and that the circulator believes each signer's name and address were correctly signed.

Brain said that was sufficient, saying that the constitutional requirement does not require the use of that specific word.

``It merely requires 'an' oath that the petition signatures are genuine, but does not prescribe a specific oath that will accomplish that objective,'' the judge wrote. And he pointed out that the Legislature has specifically approved the use of this language.

The judge was no more impressed with Hauser's contention that the statement on each petition of why Pearce should be recalled was misleading.

Recall organizers are entitled to provide a 200-word statement in support of their effort. And the statement they included does mention their belief that Pearce should be ousted over ``his failure to focus on issues and concerns that affect all Arizonans.''

Hauser argued, though, that it was improper to include a statement that ``by signing this petition we publicly withdraw our support for Russell Pearce and what he represents.'' She said that could have misled signers into believing they were simply expressing their displeasure with Pearce and not signing a legal document to force a special election.

Brain said the problem with that argument is that nothing in Arizona law requires recall organizers to provide any reason at all for seeking to oust an elected official.

``The voters may recall an official for any or no reason whatever, just as they may vote for a candidate in a general election for any reason or no reason,'' the judge wrote.

Anyway, Brain noted, there is no evidence that any signers have been misled by the sentence. He said anyone looking at the petition would understand what it is.

``Each sheet was clearly labeled 'Recall Petition,' '' Brain said. ``The introductory statement on each sheet stated that, 'We, the qualified electors of the electoral district from which State Senator Russell Pearce was elected, demand his recall.' ''

Brain also rejected Hauser's contention that an entire sheet of otherwise valid signatures should be rejected simply because there was one invalid signature on them.

Hauser said she expects to discuss a schedule for an appeal with the duty justice of the Supreme Court next week, with both sides filing their paperwork by the end of the month.

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