Organizers begin next phase of Recall Dunleavy


February 27, 2020

Recall Dunleavy is entering its second round of signature gathering with the goal of collecting 91,000 signatures statewide in five weeks. In Haines, signature booklets arrived on Wednesday, and the campaign will hold a kickoff event March 6, stationing volunteers throughout town during First Friday events.

Volunteers in Haines have created a Facebook page titled “Recall Dunleavy-Haines” where they will post information about static locations where people can drop in and sign the petition as well as pop-up events around town, said Anne Marie Palmieri, member of the local Recall Dunleavy effort.

Palmieri said some volunteers will begin collecting signatures in the community before the kickoff event. For example, “Erika Merklin is planning to have her book at Monday’s Seed Swap at Mosquito Lake Community Center.”

The Recall Dunleavy campaign in Haines consists of roughly 10 volunteers, Palmieri said. But not all will be collecting signatures. Palmieri said she believes each community was asked to estimate the number of signatures they could collect and were issued booklets based on these estimates.

Five or six volunteers in Haines will receive signature booklets, Palmieri said. Multiplied by 150 signature lines per booklet, this suggests the recall effort in Haines is hoping to collect between 750 and 900 signatures to contribute to the statewide total.

“It’s a pretty significant commitment for someone to take a booklet,” Palmieri said. Each signature booklet is unique to one person and nontransferable. Some signature gatherers have offered to let people stop by their houses. Others are willing to make house calls for less mobile members of the population, she said.

There is no single issue that motivates people to sign, Palmieri said. “It’s a personal decision.”

Palmieri said she thinks it’s possible that the recent gap in ferry service will add momentum to signature gathering efforts. While she understands that current ferry issues are not the product of a single governor’s administration, “what is really lacking right now is leadership from the governor’s office about the ferry situation,” she said. “(Governor Dunleavy) is not out there being visible and communicating with people and telling us what’s going on… we’ve seen this time and time again. And perhaps that is something that will resonate with Haines residents and embolden them to sign the petition.”

Palmieri said she has been surprised by the way “this issue is really crossing a lot of political boundaries and the fact that this is not a Republican or Democrat or liberal or conservative issue. There are so many people of all political beliefs coming together and being united on this one issue.”

“I felt called to volunteer,” said Palmieri, who got involved after seeing a notice on the Recall Dunleavy Facebook page. “I believe the governor did violate the constitution and that people in elected positions need to be held accountable for their actions.” The recall process, outlined in the state’s constitution, is the mechanism for doing that, she said.

Last year, during the first phase of signature gathering, recall volunteers in Haines devoted a weekend to collecting signatures, gathering roughly 300 between Aug. 2 and 5, according to past Chilkat Valley News reporting. A total of 46,405 signatures were gathered statewide over the course of roughly five weeks.

For phase two of signature gathering, recall volunteers will start from scratch. While the campaign needs to collect just over 71,000 valid signatures to hold a recall election, Palmieri said they are hoping to give themselves a roughly 20,000-signature buffer in case some are rejected.

The recall’s second phase of signature gathering was put on hold last fall after the state Division of Elections rejected the recall application, saying the grounds for the recall did not meet standards described in state law, which are lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties, or corruption.

The governor has said that he believes the recall effort is politically motivated and a response from people who disagree with his policy decisions. The Alaska Department of Law has stated that the reasons outlined in the recall application do not meet statutory standards.

Recall Dunleavy proponents outlined the reasons for the recall in the petition application: failure to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court within the legally required timeline, misuse of state funds by authorizing the purchase of electronic advertisements without proper disclosure, abuse of line-item veto authority as a retaliatory measure against the judicial branch, and a “mistaken” veto of $18 million in Medicaid funding.

Recall Dunleavy appealed to the courts to overturn the Division of Elections’ decision. In January, Anchorage Superior Court judge Eric Aarseth ruled that all but the Medicaid funding veto were valid grounds for recall.

The state Department of Law has appealed to the Alaska Supreme Court to overturn the ruling, with oral arguments scheduled to take place on March 25. In the meantime, the Alaska Supreme Court has allowed signature collection to begin.

If the court rules in favor of the recall effort and volunteers succeed in reaching the requisite number of signatures, a special election will be held no more than 90 days after the Division of Elections determines the petition was properly filed. This could mean a recall election as soon as this summer if Recall Dunleavy reaches its five-week signature collection goal.


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