Wild, Wild West of recall campaign laws



The recall attempt against Gov. Dunleavy has, with unknown money from unseen donors, built up a head of steam, with about 40,000 people having signed an application that will be submitted to the Division of Elections.

The group has an excess of 10,000 signatures so far, and more being gathered all the time as the Recall Dunleavy group mines data from the public to determine who is discontent over budget cuts.

In early September, the recall group will conduct a made-for-TV march from the CIRI headquarters on Fireweed Lane over to the Division of Elections on Gambell Street in Anchorage to file their boxes of signatures and apply for an actual petition to put the question on the ballot. There will be some political theater involved so it makes the TV news.

Until then, organizers say they’ll keep gathering signatures at the Alaska State Fair.

All those names will go into a massive database, and each name will be tagged with “opposes Dunleavy” for future use. The database the Recall Dunleavy people will use is most likely the NGP VAN, a voter database used by Democratic parties and its sub-units, Democratic campaigns, and other organizations authorized by the Democratic Party.

The names on the petition application are public record, and anyone can request a copy of them from the Division of Elections. If the Alaska Republican Party was smart, it would get a copy and enter the names into its database, called GOPDataCenter, and also tag all the names with “opposes Dunleavy.” That will help candidates in the future know a bit more about who they are talking to when they knock on the door. It’s almost like being able to peer over the shoulder of those petition signers to see how they voted last November, and that is useful information for both sides.

In September, the director of the Division of Elections will review the signatures and decide whether the application meets the legal criteria needed for a recall. That criteria includes: Did the petitioners wait until 120 days after the governor’s inauguration before gathering signatures? Are the signatures valid? Do the reasons for the recall meet the criteria?

The process could take as long as the Division, in consultation with the Attorney General, needs or wants. There is no timeframe set forth in statute for when the director must make that decision. It will likely be more than a few weeks. It could take a year.

Normally, this is when there would be a lull in activity. But not with this recall group. They are well funded and they’ll keep their messaging going so they don’t lose momentum, because this is not just about the recall, but about the 2020 election cycle.

If the application is approved, and after all court challenges are satisfied, the Division of Elections would issue actual petition booklets and the signature gathering starts all over again. Instead of the approximate 29,000 needed for the application, the next phase requires 71,000 signatures.

After the second set of signatures is verified, the question would be placed on a ballot and Alaska would have a special recall election. The Recall Dunleavy group has until about the middle of 2021 to gather and submit those signatures, and so this recall campaign will dominate the political landscape for the duration of Dunleavy’s first term.

Here’s where it gets tricky.


For now and well into the future, no campaign rules apply to the Recall Dunleavy campaign activities. They do not need to report to the Alaska Public Offices Commission about where their money comes from or how they are spending it. No disclosure labels are required on any t-shirt, hat, or sticker. They don’t need to reveal how much money they have, although the group reported it raised $25,000 from over 300 donors.

The same goes for those who support the governor. They do not need to report anything to APOC at this time for whatever social media or paraphernalia they purchase. They can raise money, spend money, and APOC can’t fine them a penny.

This is totally uncharted territory for Alaska.

There’s one hitch to all this money coming and going: If a recall election is actually certified and scheduled, any funds those pro- or anti-recall organizations have left over cannot be used to campaign without disclosure to APOC. And that means any money raised now might be subject to disclosure later on.

But from now until the certification for the ballot, money can flow from unknown sources in state and out of state, and the Recall Dunleavy group can continue pounding on the governor. The Democratic Governor’s Association could fund the Recall Dunleavy group with unlimited money, for example, and the public will not know. Money could come from deep-pocketed Tom Steyer or George Soros, for that matter.


Because the money can flow freely, Alaska has entered into an era of ongoing political turmoil that will spill over into the 2020 presidential election cycle. From now until some unknown point in the future, the Recall Dunleavy campaign will be coordinating its message in an effort to weaken the governor and Republican legislators for the next legislative season and future campaigns. They could, and they will, tie him to any unpopular event or person. If Trump takes a spill in the polls, they’ll tie Dunleavy to Trump. If there’s a prison riot, they’ll say “I told you so.”

Their side work will be the 2020 election to flip the Alaska House to Democrat and try to flip Congressman Don Young out of office.

Gov. Michael Dunleavy isn’t the only governor facing a possible recall. The movement to recall governors is underway in nearly one quarter of the 19 states that allow recalls of elected officials; most of the states are in the West: Democrat governors in Colorado, Oregon, New Jersey, Nevada and California, and most recently, Alaska’s Republican governor.


  1. Wonder if any Drum On’s or Spin Holz’s are involved in this caper? Non stop shennagins. Waste of money and time instead of trying to find solutions. It’s a “blood sport” dontcha know.

  2. It is good to see citizen participation in Democracy throughout America.
    40,000 signatures in a few weeks is no small feat for Alaskans.

    • And regardless of how it all shakes out, it’s already paid off in Governor backing off many of his budget cuts. In fact that could be the main reason for handling it as it’s been done-otherwise the recall bunch would have waited for the budget process to have been completed IMO.

      • Bill,
        I think you are correct…
        Not only have most vetoes been reversed, but we are also seeing changes in his appointments to boards like the Marijuana Control Board where months ago he tried to appoint an “abolitionist” and now he decided that a “pro industry” person may be more appropriately in line with public opinion.

        • Most vetoes have not been reversed. A couple were and one in particular (UA) was a high dollar amount, but was done after a multi-year agreement to reduce spending was reached.

    • Participatory democracy realized through elections. The guy is trying to do exactly what he said he would do during the campaign. Best Governor ever and a first.

      • Mere speculation that will be determined (or not) with this Recall effort.
        So far, and with little effort, there are 40k Alaskans who disagree with you Will.

        • That’s what they say. There are comments on the actual amount they have gathered. If they are so worried about getting them in and having the actual amount, what’s the hold up? It’s easy to do without the money from the unions, Native organizations and most likely all Democrats in the Legislature. Good luck, don’t see it getting any movement legally, not even with them having a lawyer do it, I think the actual amount is in the 20,000 and when you think about it being on the ballot, How many voted for the governor? 179,000. And they weren’t Democrats. Seen a comment from a man who said he is a Democrat and he is standing with the Governor. These are tantrums being done by so-called Alaskans.

          • Cindy, not sure what all your comment is about but you are off by about 35k votes for Dunleavy. And what you think about the number of signatures is hardly something to crow about. Heheh!

    • When. 22 % of all Alaskans employed are public sector that number is a breeze and the add all the unions!

    • We are not a Democracy we are a Constitutional Republic get your facts straight before opening your mouth

      • Are you daft, Steven. Some things we entrust to our reps. but others we vote on specifically-this is one of those.

  3. I wonder how many who have signed on to the recall understand that the Lieutenant Governor would replace the Governor if this effort were somehow successful, I would be willing to bet not many.

  4. Remember how well the Great Alaska LeDoux Vote Experiment worked.
    On to bigger and better things, it seems…

  5. The recall attempt against Gov. Dunleavy has, with unknown money from unseen donors, built up a head of steam, with about 40,000 people having signed an application that will be submitted to the Division of Elections.

    The group has an excess of 10,000 signatures so far, and more being gathered all the time as the Recall Dunleavy group mines data from the public to determine who is discontent over budget cuts.

    Umm, can someone tell me what number is what? I here 10 and see 40…

    • You are correct that the construction is confusing. They have 10,000 more signatures than they need, give or take a few. – sd

  6. Bill Yankee is right – some issues need to be decided by the voters, especially ones that deal with money issues. That is why we vote on bonds, sales taxes etc. Which is why the biggest money issue of all, the payment structure of the PFD should go to a vote of the people. Right Bill?

    • What you are talking about is local laws, rather than statewide issues Mayor Dan. We do vote on some things, that’s for sure, but not sure that money issues are necessarily something we can’t trust our reps. to handle.
      Frankly, the electorate doesn’t understand the POMV issue and couldn’t make an educated vote on it IMO, sort of how Dunleavy got elected simply by promising a $6k PFD. That said, our finance committee folks (in both Houses) are the most tuned into this issue and they at least understand it. But even they are influenced by their constituents as they surely want to be re-elected.
      So I have to disagree with your premise that this should be voted on. Just my opinion.

      • It’s hilarious for me to think that some people believe that because a person is an elected official that they somehow hold some kind of superior knowledge that the rest of us mere mortals do not and cannot obtain. We have a citizen legislature, they are our neighbors, for good or bad. Lots of them have repeatedly proven they aren’t in the upper echelon when it comes to brains, but they are our neighbors and representatives. To think that there is a greater percentage in the legislature that understands the POMV vs statutory Dividend issue just does not pass the smell test. All of the evidence that I’ve seen suggests that there are fewer in the legislature than in the general public that understand this issue.

        • Four-flusher, next you’ll be telling us that we all should be involved in the budget process, rather that having our Finance Committees and Legislators doing the heavy lifting.
          Your bit about your “evidence” that general public knows more about the issue than legislators is just your wet finger in the air-your only problem is that the legislature doesn’t happen to agree with you and thus don’t understand. What a joke. Tough noogies.

    • In 2010 we voted on one that was referred by Legislature. That was nowhere near as comprehensive as a vote on POMV/PFD issue IMO.
      Mayor Dan, how many money issues have you voted on Federally? And do you also think we should entrust our state budget issues (money) to the electorate?
      This is clearly an issue of enough importance and complexity to avoid entrusting to electorate IMO. We already know how the electorate will vote, as they’ve already gone on record as wanting the free money and almost none of them understands the economics of that POMV (nor do they care IMO).

      • “…do you also think we should entrust our state budget issues (money) to the electorate?”
        Brilliant! You should get a blue ribbon! In just a few words you articulated what’s looked for some time like the most profound conundrum facing state government and the electorate.
        In other words, we’re stuck between a rock and a hard place;
        untrustworthy, self-centered electorate versus untrustworthy self-centered politicians (elected, one might add, from the same electorate).
        Short of writing you in for Senate President, one is a bit flummoxed for a solution.

        • Typical Morrigan gibberish.
          The electorate does not have the economics background to begin to analyze budget issues IMO. You think otherwise.
          Perhaps you also think we should vote on whether/not to allow for Federal deficits and their caps??
          By the way, your bit about “self-centered politicians” was pulled from your A$$ also? Amazing what one can come up with when they are on the wrong side of political issues.

          • I can please only one person per day.
            Today is not your day.
            Tomorrow doesn’t look good either.

      • In 1999 voters were asked if the state should use the PF earnings on government spending. The specific question was “After paying annual dividends to residents and inflation-proofing the permanent fund, should a portion of permanent fund investment earnings be used to help balance the state budget?”

        The results were 83.25% NO and 16.75% YES

        Some of the sections from the ballot:

        “Spending Reductions: Continue state general fund budget reductions and commit to long-term budget discipline and efficiencies.”

        “Permanent Fund Dividends: Guarantee a dividend to eligible Alaskan residents at a minimum of $1,700 in 1999 and $1,700 in 2000. Thereafter, the dividend will be approximately $1,340 and will continue to grow with the value of the permanent fund. After accounting for inflation-proofing, the dividend will be based on 50 percent of the annual earnings payment.

        “Funding for Essential Public Services: After payment of permanent fund dividends and inflation-proofing the fund, prioritize the annual investment earnings payment for essential public services.”

        “Balanced Budget Task Force: Establish a Citizens’ Balanced Budget Task Force to present options to further reduce state spending and identify appropriate future revenue sources.”


        I would be game to see an advisory question worded in a similar manner on the ballot.

        • We, of course, have no idea of what may be voted on. Everything I’ve heard is that there could be a large PFD given in return for a POMV future-sort of tit for tat (horse trading).
          We’ll see what shakes out.

        • The point was that the Legislature has asked for a statewide vote on the PFD in the past. There is nothing to stop them from doing so again, except that they already know the result they get will not fit what they want to hear.


          Had we voted to allow this back in 1999 it isn’t very hard to figure out what would have happened and how differently things would have turned out. Thankfully the collective wisdom of the electorate by a 83.25% to 16.75% voted to keep the statutory language in place.


          Somethings are just too important to leave to a small group of representatives to vote on, this is one of those thing. Besides, I thought Democrats were for democracy, is that not the case anymore? Do Democrats now think that a small group of elected representatives is a better form of government?

          • Remember here that many of these legislators concerned about statutory PFDs are Republicans. And they will only allow a vote on something that they will want to hear IMO. Heheh!
            I personally think the issue is with the Democrats that want this PFD for their needy constituents-many of them are insisting on a vote (along with Micciche). Thus I do think there is a good chance for a vote on something that is a trade-not that I think it’s a good idea (just politics).

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