Recall candidate Olivia Cortes will stay on the Nov. 8 ballot despite allegations that her campaign is part of a fraud, a Maricopa County Superior Court judge has ruled.
Judge Edward Burke heard arguments last week in the lawsuit filed by a Legislative District 18 Republican alleging that Cortes is part of a sham campaign to draw votes away from candidate Jerry Lewis and help Pearce retain his seat. In Monday’s ruling, Burke wrote that no one during the all-day hearing last week “impugned Cortes’ honesty or integrity.”
“The court finds that she is genuinely opposed to what she believes is Pearce’s harsh legislative treatment of and comments about illegal Hispanic immigrants,” Burke wrote.
Attorney Tom Ryan, who is representing plaintiff Mary Lou Boettcher in the case, asked Burke to order the county to print ballots without Cortes’ name and give overseas voters extra time to return those ballots. Ballots already have been printed, more than 100 have been sent to voters overseas, and two voters in Paraguay have cast their votes and sent them in.
County elections officials have said it would be costly and difficult to reprint and send out new ballots without Cortes’ name on them in time to meet election deadlines.
Burke declined to order new ballots.
“Two citizens have already voted. By the time new ballots could be printed and mailed to military and overseas voters, more may have voted,” Burke wrote in his ruling. “The court cannot take the chance that any voter will be disenfranchised by its ruling.”
In his ruling, Burke did skewer East Valley Tea Party chairman Greg Western, a Pearce supporter who has been helping Cortes with her campaign.
“His testimony that he has no idea who designed, posted, and paid for campaign signs supporting Cortes or who paid the professional circulators is too improbable to be believed,” he said. “The court finds that Pearce supporters recruited Cortes, a political neophyte, to run in the recall election to siphon Hispanic votes from Lewis to advance Pearce’s recall election bid.”