Recall supporters are waiting to hear if the Arizona Supreme Court will hear their appeal, which could help resolve questions statewide about what is needed to force a recall of an elected official.
Things have been moving quickly through the courts in the Unite Payson vs. Mayor Tom Morrissey case because officials continue to prepare for the March 10 recall election of Morrissey pending the outcome of the appeal.
Judge Randall Warner ruled Monday that the town clerk, Gila County recorder and the county board of supervisors should continue to prepare for that election, including preparing and issuing candidate packets, creating the ballot and establishing polling places.
Warner made the ruling after Unite Payson, which includes appellants Kim Chittick and Stan Garner, moved to stay pending their appeal, which he granted.
Unite Payson has filed appeals with the Arizona Court of Appeals Division II and the Arizona Supreme Court.
On Monday, the Arizona Court of Appeals Division II, scheduled a case hearing for 10 a.m. Nov. 13 to allow time for the Arizona Supreme Court to decide if it will take the appeal.
If it does not, division II could then hear the case.
Unite Payson filed the appeal Oct. 31 shortly after Warner agreed with Morrissey’s argument that the number of signatures needed to recall him was greater than the amount Unite Payson had collected.
When Unite Payson initially launched the recall, the town clerk calculated they needed to collect 770 signatures from registered Payson voters to force a recall election.
This was based on state law and the Arizona Constitution, which states that to call a recall election, organizers must collect 25 percent of the number of votes for that office in the “last preceding general election.”
The last time a mayor was elected in a general election in Payson was 17 years ago in 2002. The most recent election, however, was the 2018 primary, when voters elected Morrissey.
“So, as between the two, which election best fits the meaning of “last proceeding general election” as contemplated by the Constitution?” Warner wrote in his ruling.
Morrissey’s lawyers argued the 2018 primary better fit that definition and Unite Payson needed to collect 1,225 signatures.
Warner agreed, saying the August 2018 election is a better fit to the term “last preceding general election” than the 2002 election.
“It is more consistent with the Constitution’s purpose of measuring the number of signatures needed to call a recall by the present size of the electorate. And an election from 17 years ago cannot reasonably be considered ‘preceding,’” Warner wrote.
It is unclear when the Arizona Supreme Court will decide if it will hear the appeal.