Senate President Russell Pearce Recall

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A citizens group has submitted enough valid signatures to force Senator Russell Pearce into a recall election. Find out what the next steps are with State Election Director Amy Bjelland.

Ted Simons: Good evening and welcome to "Horizon." I'm Ted Simons. On Friday the secretary of state's office notified the governor that the citizens for a better Arizona committee had filed enough valid signatures to force a recall election of State Senator Russell Pearce. Here to tell us what happens next is State Election Director Amy Bjelland. Good to have you here. Thanks for joining us.

Amy Bjelland: Thank you.

Ted Simons: He has to be officially notified of all of this?

Amy Bjelland: Correct.

Ted Simons: And has he been notified?

Amy Bjelland: Yes, our office was able to do that on Friday after we completed our certification and notified the governor.

Ted Simons: He has like -- what? -- five days to respond?

Amy Bjelland: Five business days and that ends this Friday. He has until then to either decide to resign or remain in office.

Ted Simons: And I think most folks think he'll remain in office. Does he have to make it an official response?

Amy Bjelland: An act of resigning would have to be done officially and under statutes in writing.

Ted Simons: If he doesn't resign, does he have to do anything else or will he be an automatic candidate?

Amy Bjelland: He'll be an automatic candidate. Under the law, he's allowed as a candidate who is subject to the recall to file a defensive statement with our office that would appear on the ballot.

Ted Simons: Really?

Amy Bjelland: Yeah.

Ted Simons: Let's talk about the ballot in a second.

Amy Bjelland: Ok.

Ted Simons: When he says, "I'm not resigning," he does so by way of a statement as to why he's not resigning?

Amy Bjelland: Correct. Actually, it's up to him. He does have discretion. He doesn't have to file a defensive statement but if he does want to file, then he has the ten days to do so.

Ted Simons: What happens in the unlikely case that he should resign? Then what happens?

Amy Bjelland: If he chooses to resign, there's no need for a recall. The office would be considered vacant under state law and it would be filled according to our state law, which in the legislative vacancy arena means that the precinct men in his district would need to nominate three people and the board of supervisors would complete the appointment.
Ted Simons: So it's similar to what we've seen before when there were vacancies in the legislature?
Amy Bjelland: That's right.
Ted Simons: He has a certain amount of time, 10 days, starting when, to challenge these signatures, correct?

Amy Bjelland: Correct.

Ted Simons: When does it start?

Amy Bjelland: It's actually ten days from when Maricopa County Certified and that was last Friday, so there's ten days to challenge these signatures. And it could be anybody in Senator Pearce's camp or any electorate has the authority to challenge. But its ten days, so should be July 18th. The last day to challenge.

Ted Simons: And get a superior court judgment on that challenge and then -- what? -- all sides, whoever feels wrong, they can appeal for how long?

Amy Bjelland: They have another 10 days to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Ted Simons: Wow, there's so many dates in here.

Amy Bjelland: There are.

Ted Simons: We'll throw out more. The governor has to call an election. When -- 15 days, she has to call? When did the clock start?

Amy Bjelland: That started the day after we notified her on Friday. And so she has until July 23rd to call the election.

Ted Simons: Now, and that election would occur when?

Amy Bjelland: Based on our timeline, November 8th, that's the first consolidated election day. That's 90 days out from when she has to call the election.

Ted Simons: Let's say that Pearce doesn't resign, she calls the election. What about candidates? How many signatures are needed and how many folks can run?

Amy Bjelland: This is legislative district 18. 621 signatures, any candidate who wants to run for office and based on the total number of votes cast for that seat at the last election. Anybody can run, as long as they qualify to fill that seat. So they would have to be a qualified voter from the district. And there's no need to specify your party affiliation. Anybody can run without regard to what party they are.
Ted Simons: If I can -- if 50 people can imagine to get 621 signatures qualified -- qualified signatures, you could have 50 people on the ballot.

Amy Bjelland: That's possible, yeah.

Ted Simons: With no party affiliation? No one knows who they are.

Amy Bjelland: Correct. Like the Wild West.

Ted Simons: Like the Wild West indeed. And 621 again. And what happens if, you know, he files and he files but he didn't think he filed correctly, what kind of challenge process is there?

Amy Bjelland: Well, they would be filing between August 10th and September 9th, based on the November 8th election and after August -- or September 9th, there would be a 10-day challenge period and if there were that many candidates it could be confusing so probably a court could consolidate that into one matter.

Ted Simons: If there's too many like me or not enough like me, I don't necessarily want them on the ballot. I'm going to challenge. That could happen.

Amy Bjelland: It could.

Ted Simons: And how long do they have to get the 621 signatures?

Amy Bjelland: They have until September 9th. They can start filing their petitions with our office on August 10th.

Ted Simons: So August -- so that's a month.

Amy Bjelland: Yeah.

Ted Simons: That's why it's so little. 621 signature, right?

Amy Bjelland: Well, it's -- 621 is more than you would file for a legislative seat in this district normally but it's just -- it's based on a different calculation.

Ted Simons: Interesting.

Amy Bjelland: Yes.

Ted Simons: We talked about the fact that senator Pearce has a chance to respond or make a statement of some kind. That will appear on the ballot?

Amy Bjelland: Correct. That appears on the ballot. The grounds for recall that the citizens for a better Arizona listed on the petitions, that will appear at the top of ballot and any statement that Senator Pearce files would appear on the ballot as well and below that would be the candidates, including Senator Pearce.

Ted Simons: Here's why this is happening and here's the response as to the original allegations or whatever, and then everyone and their brother could be running below.

Amy Bjelland: It's possible.

Ted Simons: It's possible?

Amy Bjelland: Yeah.

Ted Simons: The wheels are in motion and we wait and see what gives.

Amy Bjelland: Yeah.

Ted Simons: Amy, thanks for being here.

Amy Bjelland: Good to be here.

Amy Bjelland: State Election Director;

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