By Melinda Munson
Sean Layton, assistant manager of The Mountain Shop on 4th Avenue in Skagway, is certified to collect signatures in the second step of a statewide effort for Alaskans to vote to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy.
Considering that 183 Skagwegians signed the recall application last fall, Layton expected to be busy in the shop this winter, signing up voters for the second phase, which is the recall petition to put the decision on a statewide ballot.
However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Recall Dunleavy, the non-profit leading the effort, has stopped directing voters to signature locations. Instead of signing in person, interested parties can visit www.recalldunleavy.org/sign to request a signature booklet be sent to their household, where they can sign in the safety of their home.
“It is absolutely going to affect the overall process and the speed of that process,” Layton said.
In just four weeks and before shutdowns and social distancing became the norm, 30,200 Alaskans had signed the recall petition as of March 20. A total of 71,252 valid signatures of registered voters are needed to force the election.
Recall Dunleavy hopes to submit 15% more than the required amount by April 20 — to cover disallowed signatures — in time for a special election before the Aug. 18 primary. If they miss the April timeline for a special election, the recall would go on either the primary election or the Nov. 3 general election.
Those who receive the recall petition booklets will be provided stamped envelopes to return the petitions, which organizers would like back within one week. Only registered voters should sign. Last fall’s application signatures will not count toward the petition.
Jeff Brady, of Dyea, a Recall Dunleavy volunteer, said “easily half of who usually turns out for an election” signed the first recall application in Skagway. Brady and Layton currently have 115 petition signatures between their two booklets.
Dunleavy, who ran in 2018 on a promise to balance the state budget and maintain full Permanent Fund dividends, was heavily criticized when he made deep cuts to the 2020 budget, including a $130 million decrease to the university system (about 40% of state funding) and a $96 million decrease to the ferry service (a two-thirds reduction). He later walked back many of the cuts.
Several groups including Keep Dunleavy and Elections Matter have formed to oppose the recall.
The state attorney general is challenging the legality of the recall effort, arguing the grounds for the recall vote do not meet the standard in state law. Recall Dunleavy won at the Superior Court level, with the case scheduled for oral arguments March 25 before the Alaska Supreme Court.