ANCHORAGE (KTUU) - The campaign to recall the governor from office is trialing drive-thru signature-gathering events in Fairbanks and Anchorage.
“COVID-19 has obviously totally affected the way we've been operating,” said Claire Pywell, the campaign manager of Recall Dunleavy.
The second round of signature-gathering began in late-February. The campaign quickly collected roughly a third of the signatures needed to trigger a recall election.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic hit Alaska, the need for social distancing closed in-person signing events. Signature-gathering has since slowed.
The campaign has had to adjust its tactics in light of the pandemic.
Petition booklets were mailed across Alaska and thousands were returned. “It's been 8,000-10,000 that we've collected during the pandemic and that's really impressive with all of the challenges we've faced,” Pywell said.
Another 20,000 petition booklets were mailed out in mid-May.
On Saturday, volunteers stood ready in the parking lot of the AFL-CIO building in Midtown Anchorage. People wanting to sign the petition stayed in their cars and masked volunteers gave instructions from a distance.
After signing, volunteers used a two-foot long tool with a claw at the end to put the booklet into a box. The drive-thru event will take place again on Sunday and could be replicated in the weekends ahead if campaign officials determine that it was successful.
Cynthia Henry formed “Keep Dunleavy” in late-February to oppose the recall effort. She says signature-gathering has slowed because the governor’s handling of the pandemic has been received well across Alaska.
“Enthusiasm for recalling the governor has certainly diminished,” Henry said.
The anti-recall effort isn’t active, according to Henry, after the governor requested that pro and anti-recall campaigns stop during the pandemic. If the required signatures are collected and an election is triggered, Keep Dunleavy would “ramp up” its activities, Henry said.
Former legislator and Fairbanks businessman John Binkley formed another anti-recall group called “Elections Matter” in late-February. He also says that he isn’t active in opposing the recall as the pandemic has taken precedence.
“It's just not top of mind, I don't think it's top of mind for Alaskans as well,” Binkley said.
Signers to the petition who wished to remain anonymous cited budget issues as to why they wanted the governor recalled. Marty Margeson said that was why she was there on Saturday. “I'm signing it because I think Gov. Dunleavy has been fiscally irresponsible,” she said.
Margeson was also not impressed with the governor’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic. “No, I hope he's recalled quickly,” she said.
After the Alaska Supreme Court ruled in early-May that a recall election could proceed, the only impediment has been collecting 71,252 signatures from registered Alaskan voters. The Division of Elections would need to certify the signatures and schedule a recall election 60-90 days later.
Pywell says Alaska can’t wait. “We’re racing to do this because we firmly believe that we deserve a governor that follows the law and doesn’t violate the Constitution,” she said.
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