Revising Arizona’s Recall Law

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Fountain Hills resident Paul Ryan is asking state lawmakers to consider revising Arizona’s 100-year-old recall law that allows citizens to remove elected officials from office. He won support from Republicans and Democrats who are requesting that a committee be formed to revisit the law. Join Ryan, Senator Michele Reagan and Senator David Lujan as they explain why the recall law might need an update.

Announcer:At the entrance of bullhead city's community park on state route 95 is a marker honoring northeastern Arizona's vital relationship with the Colorado river. Nearly 30 years in the mid 1800s, commercial steam ships served the mining communities of northern Arizona. Hauling supplies from as far down river as Yuma. Cargo was unloaded at nearby hardyville, often returning downstream with barge loads of local ORE. Bullshead rock from which bullhead city derived its name, was located just upstream. It was used as a navigation marker and the point where the Indians Forted the river. Bullshead rock was submerged in 1953 with a building of Davis dam. Today the Colorado is still bullhead city's lifeblood. Jet skis have replaced the steam ships. And Laughlin, Nevada's casinos have replaced the mines. Mining tourists wallets instead of the ORE from the mountain.

Ted Simons: Concern over a local recall election led a fountain hills resident to convince a bi partisan group of lawmakers to join him in trying to update Arizona's recall laws. They're asking senate president Steve Pierce to appoint a committee to study the issue and make recommendations. Here with more is senator Michele Reagan a Republican from Scottsdale, senator David Lujan a democrat from Phoenix and Paul Ryan, the Fountain Hills resident who took up the cause after investigating attempts to recall members of the Fountain Hills town council. Thank for joining us. This recall, these laws, 100 some odd years old, why update them?

Sen. Michele Reagan: Why update them, we're not asking merely for an update, we are asking they be looked at and see if anything needs to be changed. A lot has changed in our state since statehood, and these have not been updated or even looked at since statehood so you know these are the kinds of things that we do.

Ted Simons: Some folks would say if you're going to look at something you probably want to look at something in particular. What's being looked at?

Sen. David Lujan: Well, you know Paul's done a lot of the research and brought it to us and really raise some things about making recall elections more transparent, in terms of the financial reporting, looking at the signatures and the notary requirements, some things actually that don't apply just to recall, but to all elections in general in terms of paid circulators. I think he's raised some good concerns about how we conduct elections and particularly recall elections.

Ted Simons: Before we get more into those concerns, what got you started in this?

Paul Ryan: Fountain Hills recalls. They were of two council members, one independent, one a democrat, interestingly enough. I looked at the petition sheets and found that 80% of the people that were bringing the petition into town and getting them to sign them were paid by special interest groups, in this case Lincoln strategy group. And that bothered me as a citizen. I kind of assumed recall would be my local citizenry, especially in a small town, trying to get the council to change. And it wasn't, they were paid outsiders. And there was no other motivation except to get paid for each signature they get on a piece of paper.

Ted Simons: Have they not always been paid outsiders, at least some involved?

Sen. Michele Reagan: Oh, sure. There's always some involved paid outsiders. We've seen that in every election, whether it's recall or regular election. Some of the interesting things that Paul has also discovered through this journey is the difference in the rules for recall elections versus regular elections. And I think that was the part that really struck me, and really got me to start digging into this with him. Why are there differences in the statutes when they -- the end result is an election? But they're drastically different requirements for these two different types of elections.

Ted Simons: I guess the question coming from I guess the critics are those who would say leave well enough alone, why is this necessary? Has there -- are there abuses out there that are new, different, has the climate changed? Why is this being approached?

Sen. David Lujan: Well, I think the Fountain Hills recall is a good example of things where I think there were some issues in terms of the paid circulators, and the money that's put into these things. I think if you compare and contrast, the Russell Pearce recall, for example, which is one I supported and was involved with actually raising money for, but I think that was a grass-roots recall, I think that's what recall were meant to be in terms of how that was run. There might have been some concerns with that one too, I don't know, but I think in terms of how the Fountain Hills recall in particular, just the lack of transparency and the lack of the same type of rules have you in other elections.

Ted Simons: What happened in the Fountain Hills recall? Were politicians removed from office?

Paul Ryan: One was -- didn't get enough votes to have a campaign and the other one did have a campaign. And they actually defeated the recall 2-1. I want to bring up one point you asked about the paid circulators. Referendum initiative in this state have a requirement that if you -- if the referendum petition must have on their paid circulator, so people know when they're signing it that this folks -- the folks having them do that are paid. Recall does not. You don't know if that person is a member of your town or not. You have no idea if he's being paid or not. Every other thing in elections you do. So I found that to be a huge difference in recalls. The other thing is campaign limits. There are no campaign limits on recalls. None. Zero. Different than other campaigns which I think Michele referred to which have limits.

Ted Simons: And now that corporations are people too, is that a concern regarding these particular laws?

Sen. Michele Reagan: It should be, because that's allowed in recall elections. Again, just like Paul said, there are things that are involved in -- allowed in recall elections that aren't allowed in other types of elections. And vice versa. For instance, in regular elections you don't have to have all your petitions notarized. I'm not asking for that or advocating for that, but there are differences in the statutes. And I'd like to make it clear, if you don't mind, we came together as a bipartisan group, and not just senator Lujan, but senator Linda Lopez, senator Frank Antenori and senator Steve Smith, because this isn't about one particular candidate or one recall or one party. It's not about Russell Pearce. And it's not about what happened in Fountain Hills. It's about the process. And how if these two could happen, don't we owe the public a chance to look at this and see if anything needs to change?

Ted Simons: Yet critics will say because it happened to Russell Pearce and in Fountain Hills it didn't succeed, that it is restrictive. It is difficult to remove people from office. It's intended to be that way, nothing is changed except for one incident, and I know most folks don't want the Russell Pearce -- but that, let's face it, that recall election hangs over this issue and anything that deals with recalls. Why change it? Where's the problem?

Sen. David Lujan: I think you take a look, for example, in a Fountain Hills, or any small town, what you don't want is where you have people that are in office where you have special interests, maybe they vote against a waste management issue, or something, and you have an industry that comes out and puts a lot of money to try and recall a candidate just because of a policy issue not necessarily how they're performing in office. And you have these special interests that are able to actually fund a recall. I think if that's the case and maybe it hasn't happened yet, but why not look at it and see that these elections are just as transparent and just as fair as any other election.

Ted Simons: If there's one thing you would like to see changed or updated if you will, what would it be?

Paul Ryan: I think it needs to be a modernized -- I think what happens, 100 years of patched-up law reflects to me that the original founders, which didn't have special interest groups to worry about, that the laws are so open now, that what's happening is these larger corporations and special corporations like this Lincoln strategy group come in with money and they can win things in town, elections, by outspending people. That bothers me a lot, because I think the original intent was to have this a people's movement, not a special interest corporations movement.

Ted Simons: So again, if there were an idea, what would you suggest? One biggie, one overriding idea.

Sen. Michele Reagan: I'd like to look at the signature requirements and why on -- why they're different for a recall election where they need to be notarized, you need to identify or you don't need to identify paid versus unpaid, wherein other elections, why is that different? We're talking about the same thing.

Paul Ryan: I don't think it's one issue. What Michele said earlier was right. This commission is intended to look at the whole recall. And there are probably 15 to 16 issues that I've introduced to the senate that need to be looked at. So I think it's a big subject.

Ted Simons: All right. We've got to stop it there. Thank you for joining us. Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon," a decision in a discipline case of former Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas is expected. We'll bring you legal analysis. And learn about a nonprofit that's teaching valley residents how to practice sustainable living. That's Tuesday on "Arizona Horizon," 5:30 and 10:00, right here on eight HD. That is it for now. I'm Ted Simons. Thank you so much for joining us. You have a great evening.

Paul Ryan:Fountain Hills resident; Senator Michele Reagan; Senator David Lujan;

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