I received an email this morning asking me why we are still pursuing the recall or Rep. Lindsey Holmes, even though the legislative session will be over in less than 90 days and for all practical purposes, Ms. Holmes will no longer be our representative.
That is a really good question. Here are a bunch of good answers.
First, Ms. Holmes counted on voters to be apathetic. We weren't apathetic; we gathered the necessary signatures for the application and submitted what we believe to be valid grounds for recall. The Division of Elections denied our application, but in doing so, they did not address the real issues that we were raising -- that in changing her party affiliation from Democrat to Republican after the 2012 election, Ms. Holmes defrauded the voters and her contributors by misrepresenting her intent, and whether the voters' rights to a fair and transparent election process was violated. If we were to walk away now, we would be saying that Ms. Holmes was right all along. I don't think any of our supporters believe that, and we're not ready to concede that we were wrong.
Second, we are arguing a much larger issue than just what happens in West Anchorage. It is about the integrity of the electoral process. Alaska law and the U.S. Supreme Court guarantee a process where we can select our candidates in our primaries, presumably without interference from mischief-makers. Ms. Holmes demonstrated at least two different ways that the primary system can be gamed. A candidate could run in the Democratic primary to avoid a challenged Republican primary, and a candidate could run in the Democratic primary to avoid the requirement that a candidate be a member of the Republican Party for six months before the filing deadline for the election.
In either of these cases, a candidate gains access to the general election ballot without ever appearing in their intended party's primary by simply remaining or becoming a Democrat. That is not what the statute intends. If you're a Democrat, run in the Democratic Primary. If you're a Republican, run in the Republican Primary. If you've been confused about it for the past six years, run as an independent, and gather the necessary signatures to get on the ballot.
Lastly, the recall process itself is broken. Well, perhaps not really broken, but rigged against the voters. In Alaska, just the application process takes at least 150 days from the beginning of the term, and requires about 1,000 signatures to ensure that at least 808 are valid. The Division of Elections takes 30 days to evaluate the application. In our case, just the application process took almost 11 months. By comparison, in California the recall application process can be completed in 34 days, and requires only the signatures of the sponsors. In Oregon, the process takes as few as eight days.
In Alaska, once the application is approved, we're required to gather 2,020 additional valid signatures. The state then has another 30 days to evaluate the signatures before declaring a special election. More lengthy canvasses. More delays.
We think that is unconstitutional. If the process is so long and arduous that it can't be completed, then it effectively doesn't exist as a right. It is no coincidence that no legislator has ever been recalled in Alaska.
In the same email, I was asked about whether we should be asking the state to spend the money for a special election. Yes, we should, because it is our right. If we have grounds, and meet the standards, we should have an election.
A recall is never the pragmatic solution. It is always going to be cheaper in terms of money and effort to just wait until the next general election and "vote the bums out." But Alaskans are having their rights eroded, and I, for one, am not taking it anymore.
Inaction is a tacit acceptance. I don't accept. We aren't wrong, we weren't wrong, and I am convinced a judge is going to agree with us.
Wigi Tozzi is one the primary sponsors of the effort to recall Rep. Lindsey Holmes.
By WIGI TOZZI