Feathered Bastard

Russell Pearce Files Lame Court Challenge to Recall Petitions (w/Update)

State Senator Russell Pearce's lawyer Lisa Hauser filed one of the lamest legal challenges in this history of civil actions today. This, to the so-far successful recall effort against Pearce, which has resulted in Governor Jan Brewer ordering a recall election in Legislative District 18.

It's not only lame, it's laughable. Because in it Hauser is essentially calling out both the Arizona Secretary of State's Office and the Maricopa County Elections Department as incompetent.

Hauser, whose first two legal challenges regarding the recall effort were shot down by both the SOS and the Arizona Attorney General's Office, claims that the statutory language on the recall petitions is not in line with what the Arizona Constitution requires.

Keep in mind that the format of the recall petitions is devised by the Secretary of State, not the recall effort.

SOS spokesman Matt Roberts told me that state statute guides the entire process, and that the Secretary of State's Office was confident that its work will stand up in court.

"We're the filing officer, and it's our job to make sure that people are following state law, whether or not the state law is clear is something for the court's to decide," he told me.

Pearce's attack schnauzer Hauser even goes so far as to claim that the statement of grounds for the recall filed by Citizens for a Better Arizona is "defective," stating that the language is "misleading" and "created a sufficient degree of fraud" because it did explain that a successful recall would result in an election.

(You can read the complaint for yourself, here.)

Roberts told me that, "The petition can say anything it wants at the top." 

Moreover, "Recall Pearce" appears at the very beginning of the petition forms. There's no doubt what the forms are for, unless you're an ignoramus, or Russell Pearce's attorney.

Randy Parraz pointed out that the Secretary of State's Office vetted the language used in the recall statement. He found Hauser's contention laughable.

"We could have said, `We don't like Russell Pearce, he has a big nose and wears Ronald McDonald shoes,'" he scoffed. "As far as telling people when there will be an election, the Governor tells them that when it happens."

Additionally, Hauser contends that if any of the signatures on a petition form are invalid for any reason, then the entire petition sheet must be tossed.

Wrong. I addressed this claim by the Pearce camp in a previous post. Both Roberts and Osborne confirmed that this is not the case. One signature being invalid does not invalidate the entire sheet.

Hauser contends that some signatures should be tossed because in some instances the handwriting for the address does not match the signature. That sometimes happens if a family member fills out the info for someone else in the same residence.

She also complains about people identifying their addresses as being within LD 18, but who have addresses outside of the district on file. She says 731 recall-signers were guilty of this oversight. Even she notes that this is often because people have moved and just haven't updated their registration.

Finally, she kvetches about two petition circulators by name, asserting everything by them should be disqualified. In one case because a lot of the signatures were "fraudulent," and in another case because the address a circulator gave when he signed the oath on the back of the petition didn't match the one he signed the petition with.

Anyway you slice it, Hauser provides zero evidence of the "massive voter registration fraud" certain delusional pro-Pearce individuals have alleged.

She does note that as of today, county elections amended its final count from 10,365 valid signatures to 10,296. Osborne did not immediately respond to an inquiry from me as to why this was the case. (See update below.)

This is the game: Throw doubt on the signatures and try to whittle away as many possible.

Problem is, even as the numbers stand, they are far in advance of the 7,756 valid signatures required for a recall election, a recall election that has been blessed by two state agencies and one county agency.

And all three of those agencies are headed by elected Republicans: Secretary of state Ken Bennett, Governor Jan Brewer, and Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell, for whom Osborne works.

Finally, the other side can play this game as well. That is, once CBA goes into court to defend itself, it could begin challenging some of those signatures already disqualified by the SOS or the county.

Why is Pearce wasting everyone's time with this political grandstanding? Because he knows that if Mormon Republican Jerry Lewis is his challenger, as people assume will be the case, he'll lose his seat.

All he's got is left for strategy to kick and scream and pout all the way to the polls, where he eventually will go down in defeat.

UPDATE: Osborne replied to my e-mail a couple of hours after this post. Here's what she had to say:

"Review of certification is part of the process. Revised numbers are a routine step in the procedures. There were only 69 that moved from valid to invalid...New total 10,296 valid...We will attend the court hearing and defend our certification."

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Stephen is a former staff writer and columnist at Phoenix New Times.
Contact: Stephen Lemons

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