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Morrissey v. Garner - 4/21/2020

Arizona Supreme Court holds that the number of signatures necessary to trigger a recall election is based on how many people voted at the most recent election for the office.

The Recall Provision of the Arizona Constitution provides for the recall of an elected official.  It specifies how many signatures are necessary to trigger a recall election:  at least 25% of the number of voters in the “last preceding general election” for the office at issue.

Payson voters elected a mayor in 2018.  A political action committee tried to recall him in 2019.  They collected signatures but gathered less than 25% of the number of voters in the 2018 mayoral election.  The town clerk, however, considered the number of signatures sufficient for a recall.  The clerk reasoned that the 2018 mayoral election was only a “primary election” because, under the town code, a “general election” happens only if no candidate wins a majority in the primary election and a runoff is needed, something that had not occurred since 2002.  Thus, according to the clerk, the recall effort obtained enough signatures because it had more than 25% of the voters in 2002, when Payson had a much smaller population.

The Supreme Court rejected the town clerk’s interpretation.  Instead, the Court interpreted the term “last preceding general election,” as used in the Recall Provision, to mean the most recent election that functioned as a general election for the office.  Because the 2018 mayoral election functioned as a general election for the office, the number of signatures needed for the recall effort must be based on the number of voters in the 2018 election.  Under that standard, the political action committee had not obtained enough signatures, so the mayor would not be subject to a recall election.

Justice Bolick authored the unanimous opinion.

Posted by: Josh Whitaker

Posted On: 4/29/2020