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Effort to Recall Maricopa Sheriff Falls Short

Despite a recent ruling that Maricopa County deputies violated the constitutional rights of Latinos, an effort to recall Sheriff Joe Arpaio failed to collect enough signatures before the deadline on May 30.

Two groups, Respect Arizona and Citizens for a Better Arizona, needed to submit more than 335,000 signatures before 5 p.m. to force the recall election. According to Randy Parraz, president for Citizens for a Better Arizona, the group had about 200,000 signatures, though more could be uncounted.

“This would not have failed for the lack of people willing to sign it,” said Parraz.

In a statement, Arpaio criticized the effort.

“After months of name-calling, after the disparaging effigies and theatrics aimed at getting media attention to include even bringing chickens and protesters to my office repeatedly, this latest recall effort has failed,” he said.

Parraz, said the effort failed for lack of money, especially when several donors failed to come through, requiring the group to abandon a contract with paid signature collectors and rely on volunteers. The lack of a candidate to replace Arpaio and a lack of urgency hurt the campaign, said Parraz.

The recall effort stemmed from a number of problems at the Maricopa County Sheriff’s office, including accusations that the department mishandled more than 400 sex-crimes cases, legal settlements that have cost the county nearly $25 million, and the judgment a week ago that the office had illegally engaged in the profiling of Latinos in the county.

Arpaio supporters created a countergroup called Citizens to Protect Fair Election Results and filed a lawsuit against the recall effort, arguing that it violated the Arizona state constitution, which holds that recall petitions may not be circulated until six months after the election. The effort to recall Arpaio began almost immediately after his election to a sixth term in November 2012.

“We had our doubts that they could get the signatures,” said John Wise, a co-founder of the pro-Arpaio Citizens to Protect Fair Election Results. “But that doesn’t change what we are trying to do. It has to be settled if the constitution is the basis or not.”

A similar effort by the recall organizers successful unseated state Sen. Russell Pearce in 2011, though only 7,700 signatures were needed to force that election.