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US Alaska high court OKs recall petition drive for campaign to oust governor

08:25  15 february  2020
08:25  15 february  2020 Source:   reuters.com

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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (Reuters) - The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for a campaign seeking to oust the state's Friday's decision allows the signature-gathering process to move forward while the high court considers the governor 's appeal of the recall ruling on its merits.

The recall petition is the procedure by which the people may remove the governor , lieutenant governor , or members of the state legislature The division of elections verifies the signers submitted in the petition booklets, and upon completion of the review, the director notifies the recall committee

ANCHORAGE, Alaska, Feb 14 (Reuters) - The Alaska Supreme Court on Friday cleared the way for a campaign seeking to oust the state's embattled governor to proceed with plans to collect enough signatures to place a recall initiative on the 2020 ballot.

File Photo - Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy© Becky Bohrer/AP Photo File Photo - Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy

In the latest legal setback for Governor Mike Dunleavy, a first-term Republican and ally of U.S. President Donald Trump, the state's high court lifted a stay blocking state election officials from printing and distributing petition booklets for the recall drive.

After a lower-court judge ruled that allegations of misconduct lodged against Dunleavy met the legal requirements for placing a recall question on this year's election ballot, an injunction was imposed pending the Supreme Court's review of the case.

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The state of Alaska allows for the recall of state and local officials. The recall of state officials is governed by Alaska Statutes §15.45.470 through §15.45.720 and Title 6 of Alaska 's Administrative Code (25.240).

Supporters of an effort to recall Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy vowed to take their fight to court after an election official on Monday rejected their bid to move forward with seeking to oust him from office. Division of Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said she based her decision on Attorney General Kevin.

Friday's decision allows the signature-gathering process to move forward while the high court considers the governor's appeal of the recall ruling on its merits.

During his first 13 months in office, Dunleavy has antagonized large swaths of Alaska’s electorate in both major political parties.

His most controversial actions have included a bid to slash state university funding by more than 40%, a drastic cutback of state ferry operations that left coastal communities stranded over the winter, endorsement of an unpopular copper-mine plan, and the awarding of a no-bid $441,000 contract to a major campaign contributor’s grandson.

The reasons cited for his ouster in the recall petition are narrower, however.

It accuses Dunleavy of illegally using state funds for partisan politicking, violating legal requirements for filling a judicial vacancy and violating the constitutional separation of powers with a budget veto intended to punish the courts for an abortion-rights ruling.

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The governor also vetoed court system funding, the recall group alleges, to retaliate against the Alaska Supreme Court for its ruling on public funding of elective abortions. The group also alleges that Dunleavy mistakenly vetoed million more in funding than he intended to, used public funds for

Alaska attorney general Kevin Clarkson Monday rejected a petition to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy, saying it doesn’t meet statutory requirements. Citing the attorney general’s opinion, division of elections director Gail Fenumiai notified the Recall Dunleavy campaign its application for certification had been

The state's constitution allows for recalling a governor on grounds of incompetence, negligence or corruption.

The campaign to remove Dunleavy has so far collected more than 49,000 signatures of registered voters, nearly double the number necessary for the first phase of a recall. Qualifying for the ballot requires 71,252 more signatures, equivalent to 25% of the total votes cast in the last state election.

Further delays in the process while the legal challenge remains under court review would be unfair to the recall campaign, the Supreme Court ruled, finding that Dunleavy's supporters have failed to demonstrate a likelihood of prevailing in their case.

Recall campaign manager Claire Pywell said her group wants to oust Dunleavy as soon as possible.

"This is a serious recall. We’re very grateful that the Supreme Court is treating it as such," Pywell said.

Alaska's assistant attorney general, Maria Bahr, said in an email that the Alaska Division of Elections will comply with the high court's ruling.

Elections Director Gail Fenumiai said petition booklets are expected to be ready by next Friday. (Reporting by Yereth Rosen in Anchorage; Editing by Steve Gorman and Edwina Gibbs)

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