***Updates regarding new voter registrations are at the end of this post.***
Respect Arizona, the group that had been spearheading the effort to remove Sheriff Joe Arpaio from office, announced Thursday afternoon that it had not obtained the signatures necessary to trigger a recall of the sheriff.
As a result, the group did not submit its signatures to the county elections office by the 5 p.m. deadline
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With bankers boxes of petitions weighing down a table next to her and around 40 supporters looking on, Respect Arizona's campaign manager Lilia Alvarez explained the situation to reporters assembled before the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors' auditorium, nearby where the group had erected tents days before as part of what they called "Camp Recall Arpaio."
"I must admit to you that despite the 120 days of hard labor and dedication we have come up short," she said.
Alvarez declined to state precisely how many signatures supporters of the recall had gathered. She emphasized that Recall Arizona would not submit the petition in part because the group did not want the county to incur the expense of verifying signatures.
"We know that because we have not gotten to the mark, we cannot submit the signatures," Alvarez explained. "Because submitting the signatures would incur millions of dollars invested in a process that we can't trigger."
Maricopa County elections director Karen Osborne has estimated that the verification of the signatures would cost the county $1.5 million. So the group's decision not to submit its petitions was the correct one.
Even if the organization scored more than the 335,317 signatures needed, a certain percentage were sure to be tossed, as they always are, for various reasons.
Alvarez knows her group potentially would have lost the moral high ground to criticize Arpaio's office for misspending millions of taxpayer dollars.
Still, Alvarez said the group would be turning in more than 15,000 voter registration forms for new voters obtained during the recall campaign. (Note: Please see updates below.)
Several of the speakers called on Arpaio to resign in the face of federal Judge G. Murray Snow's recent ruling that the sheriff's office engages in discriminatory policing against Latinos.
State Representative Martin Quezada spoke for many present when he noted that Snow's decision, which dropped with just a few days left in the recall effort, was too late to be of assistance.
"Had [Judge Snow's] ruling come out a month earlier, who knows how many signatures we would have gotten?" he said. "We would have gone so far above the mark that we would be celebrating now."
Quezada is on target. Snow's ruling pumped much needed energy into the recall effort.
If the ruling had come earlier, it might have meant an infusion of donations into the campaign, as money was always an issue for the recall.
Twice the recall had to suspend its paid petition drive and rely on a dedicated army of volunteers. For an effort this size, paid signature gatherers are a sine qua non. Yet deep-pocket liberal and Latino contributors were shy of a process with so many uncertainties.
"We did not have enough donors to step forward," Randy Parraz, president of the pro-recall group Citizens for a Better Arizona told the media. "We didn't have enough volunteers to carry this thing forward. We didn't have enough buy-in from elected officials. We didn't have enough courage in Maricopa County to stand up to Sheriff Arpaio. That's why we came up short. It's that simple.
"[Arpaio's political adviser] Chad Willems and his buddies may be drinking some beers somewhere, celebrating, thinking they won this. What are they celebrating? What did you win, six days after the sheriff has been found guilty of being a racist?"
Parraz promised to oppose taxpayer funding for an appeal of Snow's ruling.
"We don't want to see one dime, not one penny, going to fund any appeal to this decision," he stated.
I've already read one alleged "expert" opine that Recall Arizona should have waited for Snow's decision, then sought to recall Arpaio.
Which ignores the fact that people did not know when or how Snow would rule.
There is always an excuse for not acting when the consequences of inaction do not affect you or those you care about.
Latinos and those who yearn for justice in Maricopa County and Arizona do not have the luxury of doing nothing. Every day that Arpaio is in power is one more day that justice is denied.
Chad Snow, chairman of Citizens for a Better Arizona, put it best.
"I want to say unequivocally, the fight against Joe Arpaio will go on," he said. "We will continue to fight Joe Arpaio in the courts. We will continue to fight him here at the Board of Supervisors. We will call for his resignation...We're going to ask for the [U.S. Department of Justice] to reopen the criminal case against him.
"We are not going to rest until Joe Arpaio is either in jail or out of office."
My sentiments exactly.
Update June 3, 3:04PM: According to Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne, "1,455 original registrations" were submitted to the county last week by Respect Arizona, not 15,000.
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I spoke with Randy Parraz, and he said he believed there had been some miscommunication and that they intended to state that they were turning in 1,500 new registration forms that day.
I'm working on getting a total number of new registered voters signed up over the life of the recall. When I have that from the county, I'll post it.
Update June 3, 5:20 PM: Osborne just got back to me on a total for the effort, beginning from 1/30/13, and including all groups involved in the recall: 14,504 registrations submitted.
As that's pretty close to the original 15,000 number quoted, it might be the source of any confusion.