Mark Syms, an Arizona Senate candidate whose petitions contained hundreds of apparently forged voter signatures, will not appear on the Nov. 6 ballot.
The Arizona Supreme Court has upheld a lower court’s order to remove Syms from the ballot after a political opponent filed a lawsuit alleging his petitions contained at least 900 forged signatures.
In a ruling Wednesday, the court concluded the “evidence is abundant that Syms did not produce enough valid signatures to qualify for the ballot.”
Candidates in Arizona must collect signatures from voters to have their name appear on the ballot.
Syms, an independent, was running for Senate in Legislative District 28, which spans parts of north-central Phoenix, Arcadia and Paradise Valley.
His campaign declined to comment on the court’s ruling, which cannot be appealed.
Syms was knocked of the ballot in June, when a Maricopa County Superior Court judge ruled in favor of his opponent, incumbent Sen. Kate Brophy McGee, R-Phoenix, whose husband brought the suit.
McGee’s attorney wrote, in a court briefing, that Syms’ petitions were a “vehicle for one of the most elaborate, extensive and systemic petition fraud schemes in Arizona history. That dispositive fact has never been in serious dispute.”
How many signatures were valid?
Syms needed a minimum of 1,250 valid signatures to remain on the ballot. He submitted 2,158 signatures, but the court determined only 493 were valid.
Controversy over Syms’ signatures came to light in early June, when The Arizona Republic reported that dozens of voters whose names appear on his petitions said their signatures were forged without their consent or knowledge.
Syms, a prominent doctor, initially said in a statement to The Republic that he was the “victim of fraud” on the part of a signature-collecting firm he hired to gather his petitions.
His campaign said he hired a signature-collection company owned by a man named Larry Herrera.
Herrera, a school-board member in the Washington Elementary School District in north Phoenix and Glendale, hasn’t responded to repeated requests for comment.
Syms paid Herrera’s company $15,000 to collect signatures, according to campaign-finance records.
Maricopa County elections officials, who reviewed Syms’ nomination petitions, ultimately determined more than 1,100 signatures were invalid because the handwriting did not match that of voter records.
Syms appealed his removal from the ballot to the state Supreme Court, alleging the county used a flawed verification process to check signatures.
Justice ‘troubled’ by review process
While the court upheld Syms’ removal, Vice Chief Justice Robert Brutinel wrote in the ruling that they are “troubled by the opaqueness” of the county recorder’s review process.
His opinion urged state lawmakers to clarify the county’s role.
“The candidates, petition challengers, and the courts, as well as our democratic system as a whole, would benefit from a far clearer process with defined statutory roles for the county recorders,” Brutinel wrote.
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