Disclaimer: The comments in this blog are my personal opinion and may or may not reflect an adopted position of the city of Glendale and its city council.

I am writing this particular blog on Tuesday, May 5, 2020. As of this date I had already challenged the validity of some nominating petition signatures of my presumptive opponent for the Yucca district city council position, Bryce Alexander, in Superior Court. I did not win the case and so, I appealed to the state Supreme Court. It has not yet been decided and I may not know their decision for several more days. Whether I win or lose at the Supreme Court level, once the decision is made I will post this blog.

I want to share the under belly, the nefarious side of signature gathering for nominating petitions. There are as many petition gathering companies in Arizona as the number of fingers on both of your hands. Some are very reputable…and some not so much.

I, along with many candidates throughout this state, work hard going door to door collecting the needed signatures. You can usually tell when a candidate has done so because the signatures will reflect people who all live on the same street. For example, I went door to door on several streets so I have an entire sheets that have signatures from people who live on those streets.

 I started to collect signatures immediately after I filed to run last winter. I had already gathered the minimum number of signatures needed to file when Covid 19 hit. Just like any other candidate I wanted to obtain the maximum number of signatures (which is usually double the minimum amount required). Then I would have a cushion in case any signatures were declared invalid for any reason.

I did use a petition gathering company for those extra signatures. I used a person I know to be reputable and honest, especially since the person has a relative who was elected and had served in local, political office. This person knew the importance of and valued the need to obtain valid signatures. Before giving me the signatures collected, that company went through each sheet and verified the signatures and struck all those that were invalid. Being careful, I did my own verification after I received the petition sheets. I knew the signatures that I turned into our city clerk were indeed valid.

There are some petition companies out there that don’t necessarily operate in this fashion. They will hire anyone. In some instances, the petition signature gatherers may have a criminal history including felonies. These companies claim to do background checks. However if they are doing so, they are doing a lousy job of it. I am certainly not accusing but I suspect Mr. Alexander (and Michelle Robertson, a presumptive mayoral opponent) used such a company and you will understand the basis of my speculation shortly.

The minimum number of valid petition signatures required for nomination in the Yucca district is 160. Mr. Alexander turned in 210 leaving him a cushion of 50 signatures should any of his signatures be challenged. My challenge at the Superior Court consisted of some of Mr. Alexander’s petition signatures as invalid and I contended that only 134 of his signatures were valid. That was well below the 160 signatures required to get on the ballot.

The County Recorder agreed with me in part and did invalidate 42 of Mr. Alexander’s signatures leaving him with a maximum number of 168 signatures – only 8 over the minimum required to become a candidate.

The balance of my challenge would be decided by a Superior Court judge and my challenge was twofold: I contended in my suit that while Mr. Alexander signed the backs of two petition sheets (totaling 20 signatures) as the circulator, he did not witness those signatures and he was not the circulator of those sheets. On the back of a petition sheet the signer is attesting to the fact that he or she was the circulator and witnessed the signatures. When a person signs as having collected and witnesses those signatures and in fact, did not do so, those signatures are struck from the total count of signatures.

We were able to secure 3 witnesses, all Yucca district residents, who had signed the Alexander petitions and testified in court that it was not Mr. Alexander who asked them to sign the sheets and that they had never seen him before. I did not know any of the witnesses. They were not friends, acquaintances or supporters. They were principled strangers who wanted to do the right thing.

Mr. Alexander did not appear in court. He did not get on the stand and swear on the bible that he circulated those petition sheets and witnessed their signatures. Why didn’t he? The Superior Court judge ruled that the witnesses’ testimonies were not “clear and convincing” and validated those 20 signatures.

The other basis of my challenge was that 43 signatures should be declared as invalid because they were obtained by a convicted felon who had not had all of his civil rights restored thereby disqualifying him from being a petition circulator. On this issue the judge ruled that his civil rights had been restored and therefore his signature collection was also valid. This was a more of a technical issue and rested on the interpretation of previous Arizona Supreme Court decisions which apparently the Superior Court judge did not consider important enough to shape her ruling.

That is why I sit here today as I write this, waiting to hear the decision of my appeal by the Supreme Court. Bryce Alexander may end up on the ballot as a candidate for the Yucca district council seat by the skin of his teeth…8 signatures over the minimum required for nomination.

However, I want to bring up something Bryce Alexander wrote on his Facebook page on April 29th:

“Update: I have received notification that the incumbent has filed a notice to appeal the ruling that the petitions signed by voters was valid.

I do not yet know the basis for the appeal, nor do I wish to speculate on the motivation of Joyce Clark to drag this out at this time. Time will reveal and clarify her intentions.”

Mr. Alexander cannot possibly be as ignorant or uninterested in his fate as he portrays himself to be in this post. He had two attorneys from a very pricey law firm representing him in Superior Court. It would have been a dereliction of their duty to not inform their client of the action and my basis for challenging the validity of his nominating petition signatures.  By the way, I wonder who paid those high priced attorneys? And how much was their fee?

For the record, my campaign is paying my attorney’s fees. Unfortunately, we won’t know the answers about his campaign finances until after July 15, 2020, when the next campaign filings are due. Early ballots will have already been mailed out to voters and the Primary occurs two weeks later on August 4, 2020. So much for a timely full disclosure. Perhaps Mr. Alexander will be willing to share that information on his Facebook page.

Of course he knew my motivation in that I was challenging on the basis that he did not personally circulate those two sheets and that a convicted felon who may or may not have had his civil rights restored circulated his petitions. He just didn’t want to reveal the basis for my challenge as doing so might raise some questions among his followers.

Anyone who knows me even remotely knows that I can be feisty and sometimes I have “a take no prisoners attitude.” If I had been challenged as not being the circulator after I signed the back of sheets attesting that I had, I would have been incredibly angry. I would have marched right into that courtroom, taken the stand, sworn on the Holy Bible to tell the truth and then testified that I did, in fact, circulate and sign the backs of those petitions. Yet, Mr. Alexander did not. Again, why not?

It is now late Thursday afternoon and I just learned that I lost the appeal before the state Supreme Court. I do not have the details yet. I suppose those details are irrelevant. I would be lying if I said I was not disappointed.

In my next blog on this topic, I will be sharing some of the petition sheets Mr. Alexander submitted and some that Ms. Robertson submitted. Once the petition sheets are submitted to the City Clerk, they are a public record. There’s more to this story because not all petition sheets are created equally.

© Joyce Clark, 2019         


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