The factions warring over whether Senate President Russell Pearce should face a recall election have finally agreed on one thing: They need a final decision — and soon.
In a joint request, attorneys for both sides are asking the Arizona Supreme Court to agree to hear the case without having to first seek review by the Court of Appeals. They said time is running out.
Maricopa County Elections Director Karen Osborne said federal law requires her to mail out ballots to residents of the west Mesa legislative district at least 45 days before the Nov. 8 election. And those ballots have not even been printed yet.
“We have an absolute deadline of Sept. 23,” she said.
“The morning of Sept. 24 those ballots have to go in the mail,” Osborne continued. And while there are only 126 military ballots, Osborne said they are printed up at the same time as the more than 70,000 other ballots needed, including about 20,000 which go out to district residents on the permanent early voting list.
The crush comes after Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Hugh Hegyi ruled earlier this month that the legal challenges to the petitions had no merit. Attorney Lisa Hauser, who represents Pearce supporters, contends he misinterpreted the law and wants the ruling overturned.
Under court procedures, the case normally would go to the Court of Appeals. And that panel is not scheduled to consider the issue until Sept. 7, with no specific deadline on when it would rule.
Whoever loses is virtually certain to seek high court review. And the lawyers for both sides, in their joint petition, say the current schedule would leave no time for that to happen.
Osborne acknowledged that, legally speaking, she could prepare for the election and even mail off the ballots before a final court ruling. Then, if the justices say an election is not merited, the ballots would just not be counted.
She said, though, that makes little fiscal sense.
“Right now we’re renting polling places, we’re hiring board workers, we’re preparing all the training,” Osborne said. “We’re doing all the things that are so very necessary to put on an election at that time, not the least of which is getting this ballot printed and ready to go in the mail.”
The cost of the special election is estimated at $150,000, with the tab to be picked up by state taxpayers.