City Attorney lays out defense of Lingenfelter recall numbers
KINGMAN – In the ongoing and escalating matter that is the recall effort for Vice Mayor Travis Lingenfelter, the question of which Arizona court case sets precedent for recall elections is front and center.
One primary component at the center of the discrepancy is whether, when determining signatures needed for a recall, the correct count comes from the total number of votes cast in the 2016 General Election or the number of votes cast for valid candidates in that same election.
According to the committee leading the recall attempt, Kingman Citizens for Honesty, Accountability and Transparency, and its attorney Roopali Desai, the City of Kingman was incorrect in using Tellez V. Superior Court, 104 Ariz. 169 to determine the required number of signatures for the recall. The City believes the correct number is 1,946, while Desai says it should be 1,305.
In an email from City Attorney Carl Cooper to members of Council and staff, the attorney reiterates the City’s position that its “reliance” on Tellez is correct.
“As I have noted in the past, the court is saying that people can vote for whomever they want and for whatever reason they desire,” he said. “While it may not elect an ineligible candidate, it still counts in the process.”
In a letter sent to the City of Kingman, Desai points to an Arizona Supreme Court case that she says should have been utilized, Johnson v. Maehling. That case produced a ruling that said recalls are for the benefit of the public and not the officials, so courts should “construe the language liberally in favor of permitting recall elections.”
Cooper also writes that the City did review the Maehling case, which he said set the precedence for the recall formula. Cooper said that formula was used to determine the City’s count.
“While citing Maehling, they conveniently left out; ‘The purpose of the petition procedure is to avoid the expense of holding recall elections except in those cases where a significant showing of voter interest is demonstrated,’” Cooper wrote in citing the case.
Desai, in addition to the Maehling case, uses the Arizona Constitution and revised statutes to justify her position. She believes those both clarify that when determining the count for a recall election, it comes down to votes cast for “all the candidates for the office …” as opposed to all the votes themselves.