Russell Pearce wasn’t in court Monday, but the two-fisted lawmaker’s political career may now hang on what happened there. Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Hugh E. Hegyi will rule this week on a legal challenge filed on Pearce’s behalf, seeking to nullify petitions demanding that the Senate president face a Nov. 8 recall election.
The judge listened as lawyers argued for about two hours on recall-election petitions that county and state election officials determined had enough valid signatures to force the November vote. Arguments ranged from what happened in Arizona’s 1910 constitutional convention to whether homeless people should have a say in ousting Pearce.
The legal challenge was filed by Mesa resident Franklin Bruce Ross on Pearce’s behalf and argued by attorney Lisa Hauser.
Hauser contended that election officials were too lenient in deciding how strictly the signature gatherers had to comply with law, that circulators did not sufficiently verify each signature as “genuine,” and that some petition sheets should be thrown out wholesale because of alleged fraud by circulators. She also said the petition was deceptive in that it did not clearly explain that Pearce could lose his seat in a special election.
Arizona’s founders deliberately set a high bar for recall petitions, Hauser said, because such an election interferes with the “free, popular choice of voters made in the last election.”
She said minutes of the 1910 constitutional convention reveal that the document’s authors intended for recall to be among the most difficult of the citizen-driven election processes, which also include initiative.