MARICOPA COUNTY —
MARICOPA COUNTY — A lawsuit claims incumbent Republican State Senator Sylvia Allen did not file enough valid signatures to run in the August 4, 2020, Republican primary in Legislative District 6 (LD6) and her name therefore must be dropped from the ballot.
The lawsuit filed on April 20 in the Maricopa County Superior Court by Yavapai County registered voter William Chachkes sets forth a seemingly straightforward case.
If the lawsuit succeeds, it would open a path to the Republican nomination for retired Lt. Col. Wendy Rogers, a small businesswoman who previously sought the Congressional seat now held by Rep. Tom O’Halleran. She has so far run a harsh campaign attacking “socialist Democrats” and offering outspoken support for President Donald Trump.
On the Democratic side, Retired Col. Felicia French is running unopposed for the Democratic nomination. She came close to winning the District 6 House seat two years ago. She has mostly stressed support for education and state policies that promote environmental “sustainability.”
Arizona law requires candidates to gather voter signatures to get on the ballot, based on the vote count in the last election. A candidate must file their petitions with the Arizona Secretary of State before a set deadline. Legislative District 6 spans four counties including Navajo, Coconino, Gila and Yavapai.
The formula required Sen. Allen to gather 484 valid signatures, alleges Chachkes.
Chachkes filed under oath a claim that Allen submitted to the Secretary of State petitions containing 956 signatures, but that 538 of them are “invalid due to various legal deficiencies.” He claims that leaves only 418 valid signatures, with the deadline for gathering more already passed.
The “legal deficiencies” allegedly include the use of a convicted felon to circulate petitions outside a library or grocery store. That’s not allowed under Arizona law, so the plaintiff says the entire nine signatures on that one petition sheet are invalid.
Another six sheets didn’t contain the required affidavits by the circulator. Six other sheets were “verified” by someone other than the circulator, also contrary to law, the suit claims. Fifty-five signatures were from persons not eligible to vote; 50 were allegedly from voters registered in other counties; 260 signatories had invalid addresses, there were some duplicate signatures, and 86 of them were filed late, says the complaint.
Plaintiff Chachkes alleges that these deficiencies suggest a “troubling pattern of fraud,” and are “potentially indicative of widespread misconduct.” Named as defendants are the supervisors and election officials from all of the four counties, the Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Allen herself. In fact, the reason plaintiff can sue in Maricopa County is because Hobbs has her office there.
The suit asks for three things: One, that Allen and the other defendants be enjoined, meaning stopped, from putting Allen on the August 4 primary ballot. Two, that the court declare that Allen did not meet the threshold number of signatures, and finally, that plaintiff recovers his court costs and attorneys fees.
Sen. Allen responds
Allen, in telephonic remarks yesterday told The Independent that she plans to answer the suit and is fighting it. Allen believes "Tempe Wendy" is behind it, meaning Wendy Rogers who Allen is running against in the primary. Allen claims that Rogers "knows she is in trouble," because Rogers doesn't even live in the LD6; instead, that Rogers uses 12 foot "vacation trailer" in Coconino County as her official address. Allen says that arrangement may have been good enough for residence on the federal level when Rogers ran twice unsuccessfully for a congressional seat in CD1 but state rules are different.
The suit "is a huge inconvenience," says Allen, but she is looking forward to her day in court. For example, plaintiff claims that signatures listing a PO box are invalid, but Allen read over the phone the standard nominating petitions which allows PO boxes as addresses. That's a good thing for reservation voters, Allen says, because the majority of reservation voters list PO boxes as their official addresses, especially in LD7.
Because of the time crunch with the primary looming in August, and ballots that need to be printed, the case is on a fast track in the court system, a “rocket docket,” as it is sometimes called. Allen says that her pretrial hearing is on Thursday, presumably April 30, and the final hearing set for the next day.
Ironically, Sen. Allen supporters two years ago knocked Rep. Brenda Barton off the ballot by challenging her signatures. Barton was seeking Sen. Allen’s seat after hitting term limits on her own House seat. Barton said Allen had originally said she wasn’t running, but then changed her mind. After a chunk of Barton’s signatures got thrown out, Sen. Allen ran unopposed for the Republican nomination. She narrowly beat Holbrook Councilman Wade Carlisle in the 2018 General Election.
Sen. Allen has earned a reputation as one of the state’s most conservative lawmakers, but Rogers rhetoric has made her sound moderate.