Pearce challenges legality of recall signatures

Senate President Russell Pearce

Senate President Russell Pearce

PHOENIX -- Supporters of Senate President Russell Pearce asked a state judge on Monday to throw out all the signatures on recall petitions against him.

In legal papers filed in Maricopa County Superior Court, attorney Lisa Hauser said the Arizona Constitution requires that those who circulate recall petitions must sign an oath on the back that the signatures are "genuine.' But the statements signed by circulators instead avowed only that they were signed in the presence of the petition circulator.

Hauser acknowledged that those who want an election to oust the Mesa Republican were following the procedures used for other petitions. And she said recall organizers may even claim they were just following the petition forms from the state.

"But the law is clear that the (recall) committee has not right to rely even on the Secretary of State and remains responsible for compliance with the constitutional and statutory requirements for recall,' Hauser told Capitol Media Services.

If she is correct, that means all the petitions -- with the 10,365 signatures determined to be valid -- would be thrown out and the Nov. 8 election would be cancelled.

But Hauser will be fighting more than recall organizers in courts. Secretary of State Ken Bennett said he believes that the petition forms provided to recall organizers do, in fact, comply with what the law requires.

Bennett said it is true that the affidavits circulators signed -- then ones provided by his office -- do not have the word "genuine.' But he said they do swear that the signatures were made in the presence of the circulator, on the date indicated, that the address is correct, and that the person is a qualified elector of the state.

"Their challenge will be to get a judge to say that all of those characteristics (of the signatures) don't meet the requirements of them being 'genuine,' ' Bennett said.

Hauser, however, is not relying entirely on that contention.

Her lawsuit also contends that the way recall organizers crafted the statement on the petitions about why Pearce should be ousted actually could have confused voters.

Hauser also said those who sign the petitions calling for the recall are required to print their own addresses. She said any petition where the circulator wrote in the address is invalid.

And Hauser argued that if just one signature on a petition sheet is forged, that should invalidate all the other signatures on that same sheet, even if they are valid. That relates to the requirement for circulators to swear they witnessed the signatures.

"If a circulator is watching people sign -- and he swears that he is doing that -- and he watches the same person sign more than one line, then his affidavit is worthless,' Hauser said, meaning none of the signatures on that sheet should count.

Hauser said that, technically speaking, she is not representing the senator. In fact, Pearce he has told Capitol Media Services he is looking forward to a fight and being vindicated by the voters.

But Hauser said the lawsuit comes with Pearce's approval because he "thinks it is important to make sure the process is followed.'

In the meantime, Pearce and supporters continue to raise money to fight the recall.

On Monday, Gov. Jan Brewer sent out a message saying that those trying to oust Pearce are "the very same organizations and individuals who organized boycotts of Arizona, who opposed me in my last election, and who have consistently been advocates for unsustainable government spending.'

There is no limit on how much individuals can contribute to the committee fighting the recall, the one paying Hauser's legal bills, though it cannot accept corporate or union money. But once Pearce sets up a separate campaign committee, individual donations will be limited to $424.

At this point, there is no announced foe, though Jerry Lewis, assistant superintendent of a chain of charter schools, announced last week he is weighing a bid.

Randy Parraz, one of the recall organizers, said he believes the legal challenge will fail. He said while the lawsuit was expected, he called it "almost like an act of desperation.'


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