Alaska Supreme Court rules that Recall Dunleavy effort can proceed

Three Alaska Supreme Court justices hear the oral arguments in the Recall Dunleavy case. (03/25/2020)

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - The Alaska Supreme Court, which heard arguments in the Recall Dunleavy case in March, has affirmed a Superior Court ruling that the recall election can proceed.

The Recall Dunleavy campaign submitted four grounds for why the governor should be recalled. The first was that Gov. Mike Dunleavy had violated Alaska law when he refused to appoint a judge to the Palmer Superior Court within 45 days of receiving nominations. The second ground was that Dunleavy violated the state law and constitution and misused state funds to purchase electronic advertisements for partisan purposes.

The third ground had two parts. First, that Dunleavy had violated the separation of powers by attacking the judiciary and secondly, again violating those powers to preclude the legislature from upholding certain responsibilities. The final ground was that the governor had, "acted incompetently when he mistakenly vetoed approximately $18 million more than he told the legislature."

The superior court had approved of all of the grounds with the exception of the second part of ground three back in January.

[RELATED: Alaska Supreme Court hears Recall Dunleavy case, ruling could come soon]

The State Supreme Court ruling means that Recall Dunleavy can continue gathering the 71,252 signatures needed before a recall election is triggered.

In a dissenting opinion, State Supreme Court Justice Craig Stowers said he disagreed in part with the affirmation of the prior ruling, which also accepted the first part of ground three and all of the fourth ground.

In a written statement the Department of Law stated it is, "very disappointed with the Court’s decision."

"The Court ignored Alaska’s constitutional history and has effectively rewritten our Constitution and statutes to adopt no-cause political recall," Attorney General Kevin Clarkson said in the statement. "By the Court’s decision, from this point forward any elected official will be subject to recall for virtually any reason."

Claire Pywell, campaign manager for Recall Dunleavy, said the campaign has collected an estimated 35-40,000 signatures but that number is less precise due to the new stay-at-home signing measures the campaign has adopted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

"What we're doing has never been done before," Pywell said.

The campaign is in the second phase of its recall process and is sending registered voters a household recall petition booklet by mail at request. The recall vote would either be a part of a special election ballot or a regularly-scheduled election, depending on when those signatures are gathered and then counted by the Division of Elections. Pywell says that the group needs to gather around 40,000 more signatures by July in order to make the November General Election ballot.

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