It’s on. Alaska Supreme Court rules Recall Dunleavy can begin collecting signatures

Supporters of the Recall Dunleavy campaign follow co-chair Vic Fischer on his way to submit more than 49,000 signatures to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy to the Anchorage Division of Elections office on Sept. 5, 2019. (Photo by Matt Buxton/TMS)

The Alaska Supreme Court today ruled the Recall Dunleavy campaign must be allowed to gather signatures even though the lawsuit over the effort’s legality is still pending.

The order, which was approved by all five Supreme Court justices, reverses a stay approved by Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth and clears the way for the Recall Dunleavy campaign to begin collecting the 71,252 signatures needed to trigger a special election.

The Division of Elections is directed to prepare the petition booklets forthwith for issuance to Recall Dunleavy,” ordered the Supreme Court.

[PDF: Read the full ruling]

Aarseth ruled earlier this year that all but one of the group’s claims against Gov. Mike Dunleavy met the legal grounds to put his removal to voters. However, Aarseth ultimately decided to put a halt to the signature-gathering process, finding that it might create legal problems if some signatures were gathered before the Supreme Court reached a final ruling on what claims, if any, met the legal grounds for a recall.

Today’s Supreme Court ruling found Aarseth considered the wrong issues when considering the stay, noting that the Recall Dunleavy campaign faced real harm due to the months-long delays.

“The superior court did not expressly consider the harm to Recall Dunleavy resulting from a stay, and as a result it appears to have applied the incorrect analysis,” explains the Alaska Supreme Court order. “The statutes governing recall elections impose certain deadlines apparently intended to ensure an expedited process. The loss of several months of signature-gathering in this process is at least a ‘not inconsiderable’ injury.”

The Supreme Court said that to uphold the stay the anti-recall Stand Tall with Mike would have had to prove it was likely to succeed in the Alaska Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s order said that threshold wasn’t met and that, in fact, the Recall Dunleavy campaign’s success at the Superior Court level “implicitly rejected the argument that Stand Tall with Mike will probably succeed on the merits of its appeal.”

The Recall Dunleavy campaign has argued that if the Division of Elections had properly certified the recall effort in November instead of rejecting it, based on Attorney General Kevin Clarkson’s legal opinion, it could have already collected the signatures needed to trigger a special election and give the voters the opportunity to have Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer—instead of Dunleavy—oversee the upcoming budget.

The campaign collected nearly 50,000 signatures in about a month for the initial application process.

People who signed those petitions can sign again for the second round of the recall.

The Recall Dunleavy campaign had scheduled a kick-off event in Anchorage for this weekend but had canceled in light of Judge Aarseth’s stay. Printing signature booklets is expected to take as much as week.

“Happy Valentine’s Day to Alaska! Petition booklets will soon be distributed across Alaska and all qualified, registered Alaskan voters can make their plan to sign again and bring two friends,” said Meda DeWitt, Chair of Recall Dunleavy, in a prepared statement. “Stay tuned for the nearest location to sign the official petition.”

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