By Charlie Parke
Arizona Community Press | www.azcommunitypress.org
For years Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio has been a subject of controversy and media attention. Sheriff Arpaio became known for a tough on crime approach with pink underwear for prisoners and housing inmates in unusual conditions such as Tent City. During Arpaio’s time in office several scandals have led to public outcry from deputies involved in drugs and human trafficking, claims of racially targeting Latinos and questions regarding death of inmates.
2012 saw a tense campaign with Sheriff Arpaio facing a growing number of citizens groups seeking his defeat. Arpaio won the election with 52% of the vote. However some feel this was due to two candidates having split voters, Mike Stauffer and Paul Penzone. Concerns were raised over whether Stauffer was actually running for office or being used to split the vote to help ensure an Arpaio reelection. Another scandal arose over possibly uncounted ballots which led to protesters gathering outside the county elections office to demand all votes be counted. Feelings of voter disenfranchisement is perhaps one of the main forces that led to the formation of a recall campaign shortly after Arpaio was sworn in for his new term in 2013.
A political recall committee was formed under the name Respect Arizona. The group states their mission as “holding Sheriff Arpaio accountable by publicly withdrawing our support for Sheriff Arpaio and what he represents.” To succeed at putting a recall on the ballot, 335,317 valid signatures are needed by the end of May.
Another group, Citizens to Protect Fair Election Results (CPFER), has formed to defend Arpaio. Seeing the recall as a politically motivated attempt to intimidate politicians who take positions that are unpopular with a small percentage of the population, the group filed a cease and desist order. With the population of Maricopa County at nearly 4 million about 10% of the population must sign the recall petition for it to appear on the ballot which may cost taxpayers millions for a special election. Another objection is that it is illegal to conduct a recall this early in an elected official’s term. Article 8, Part 1, Section 5 of the Arizona Constitution states, “No recall petition shall be circulated against any officer until he shall have held his office for a period of six months, except that it may be filed against a member of the legislature at any time after five days from the beginning of the first session after his election. After one recall petition and election, no further recall petition shall be filed against the same officer during the term for which he was elected, unless petitioners signing such petition shall first pay into the public treasury which has paid such election expenses, all expenses of the preceding election.”
Respect Arizona responded to the cease and desist demand letter Tuesday, March 12th claiming the legal action to be frivolous. “The letter is a joke,” said Respect Arizona co-founder Lilia Alvarez, “but it is not funny. It is classic example of Joe Arpaio’s brand of intimidation, harassment and bullying of his political opponents.” The group has continued to collect recall signatures highlighting spring break for college students from around the country to come together to collect signatures. With over 120,000 signatures collected so far, recall supporters have renewed their efforts to gather enough signatures before the deadline for the effort expires.