Judge again pauses Recall Dunleavy signature gathering

Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton-Walsh argues in Superior Court on Nov. 14, as Judge Eric Aarseth, right, and attorneys for Stand Tall with Mike look on. On Wednesday, Aarseth issued a stay that halts the campaign to gather signatures to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy. (Photo by Casey Grove/Alaska Public Media)

A judge on Wednesday morning put a hold on the campaign to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth issued a stay that halts the organization Recall Dunleavy from gathering signatures to hold a recall election, pending a decision from the Alaska Supreme Court.

Aarseth previously overruled a state Division of Elections decision rejecting the recall application.

There was some confusion over the stay earlier this month, when a stay was issued and revoked a day later. Court system officials said it was released accidentally, before Recall Dunleavy had filed its arguments against the stay.

The organization Stand Tall with Mike asked for the stay. Stand Tall with Mike lawyer Brewster Jamieson said he was pleased. He said Aarseth agreed that if the Supreme Court were to overturn even one of the grounds for recall, that it would harm members of the public who had signed the petition based on all of the stated grounds.

“That could throw this process into some confusion, and it would be irreparable harm to the public,” Jamieson said.

Recall Dunleavy had argued that courts ruled in the past that signatures for initiatives had counted, even after courts invalidated some parts of the initiatives.

Recall Dunleavy spokesperson Claire Pywell said she hopes the court will hear the case on an expedited basis.

“From our perspective, every day that Alaskans are prevented from exercising a constitutional right that the framers had the foresight to provide Alaskans, is a day that there’s harm being caused,” to those who support the recall, she said.

If the Supreme Court upholds Aarseth’s ruling approving the recall application, the signature-gathering would start. The campaign must gather 71,252 signatures to hold the recall.

The Division of Elections would have 30 days to review the signatures after they’re submitted to determine if they’re valid. Once Elections Director Gail Fenumiai determines there are enough signatures, an election would be held in 60 to 90 days.

If Dunleavy is recalled, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer would become the governor.

Andrew Kitchenman

State Government Reporter, Alaska Public Media & KTOO

State government plays an outsized role in the life of Alaskans. As the state continues to go through the painful process of deciding what its priorities are, I bring Alaskans to the scene of a government in transition.

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