JUNEAU — The group seeking to remove Gov. Mike Dunleavy from office now says a summer special election on the issue is unlikely.
Recall Dunleavy, which must collect the signatures of at least 71,252 registered Alaska voters, has seen the pace of its signature-gathering effort slow during the coronavirus pandemic. The group needs to submit those signatures to the Alaska Division of Elections before April 19 to force a special election before Alaska’s Aug. 18 statewide primary.
“It’s unlikely,” said Claire Pywell, Recall Dunleavy’s campaign manager, when asked whether her group would submit the signatures in time.
If Recall Dunleavy collects the signatures after April 19, the issue would go to voters later in the year, possibly on the primary or general election ballots. Experts have said that a recall vote during a scheduled election would be more favorable to the governor.
Cynthia Henry, chair of the pro-Dunleavy group Keep Dunleavy, said she agrees that a special election is unlikely. Keep Dunleavy suspended operations earlier in March at the request of the governor. Henry said he wanted to avoid partisan political activity during a public health crisis.
Last year, Recall Dunleavy collected 46,405 legal signatures in five weeks during the first phase of the recall process. The second round of signature-gathering, delayed by legal opposition, began in late February. Three weeks in, the group had collected 30,200 signatures. At that point, citing the pandemic, Recall Dunleavy switched to gathering signatures by mail, a much slower process.
Pywell did not have an updated signature tally Thursday.
Pywell said Recall Dunleavy wants to collect more than the necessary 71,252 signatures in order to have a buffer if problems arise.
“To get that number, which is higher (than 71,252), is unlikely at this point,” she said of the April 19 deadline.
Any statewide recall vote also requires the assent of the Alaska Supreme Court, which is still considering the recall’s legality. On Thursday, the court asked for additional information from Recall Dunleavy and attorneys representing the Division of Elections.
The court’s request is due by April 20, and a ruling is expected after that date. Attorneys for both the state and Recall Dunleavy said that timing would not affect a hypothetical summer special election because backers could still submit signatures and the state could review them before a verdict.