Julie Gunnigle says she has enough signatures to get on ballot for county attorney

While it’s not brand new, political experts tell Arizona’s Family it’s changing the game when it comes to qualifying for the primary ballot.
Published: Mar. 22, 2022 at 6:47 PM MST|Updated: Mar. 22, 2022 at 9:00 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — Democratic politician Julie Gunnigle claimed it took her less than 24 hours to qualify for the race to replace Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel. Gunnigle announced Tuesday that she had gathered the 4,300 signatures Democratic candidates need to lock in a spot on the August primary ballot. She said she launched her signature-gathering efforts at 7 p.m. on Monday night.

Gunnigle, who is the only Democrat running so far, still has to submit the signatures and they have to be validated before she’s officially in the race. She ran unsuccessfully against Adel in 2020, losing a close race. Her announcement comes one day after Adel announced she was stepping down amid controversy over her office management.

Four other candidates are running to replace and serve out the remainder of Adel’s term, which was set to expire in early 2025. Republican Annie Foster, who serves as Gov. Doug Ducey’s general counsel, also filed a statement of interest. In addition, Republicans Gina Godbehere and James Austin are also attempting to qualify for the race along with Libertarian Michael Kielsky. Republican candidates need about 4,500 signatures from registered voters to get on the ballot and Libertarians need about 2,300.

As of 4:15 on Tuesday afternoon, the Maricopa County Elections Department says these are the signature numbers in E-Qual for those who have filed a statement of interest to be the next county attorney:

  • Julie Gunnigle: 4,289
  • Anni Foster: 91
  • Gina Godbehere: 14
  • Michael Kielsky: 12
  • Austin Woods: 4
Julie Gunnigle has collected over 4,000 signatures, making her the first candidate to qualify for the race.

Gathering signatures online

E-Qual is an online system you can use to sign a petition to support a candidate. It’s run by the Arizona Secretary of State’s office. While it’s not brand new, political experts tell Arizona’s Family it’s changing the game when it comes to qualifying for the primary ballot, especially under this tight deadline.

You have to enter your name, birthday, and either your driver’s license number or voter registration number and the last four digits of your social. This is different than the traditional method of physically signing a piece of paper. “Very few candidates, if any, would be able to qualify traditionally with just regular paper petitions between now and two weeks,” said Paul Bentz with HighGround, Inc. The deadline for gathering signatures to appear on the August primary ballot is April 4.

Bentz says this is a fairly new phenomenon for candidates to get the majority of their signatures. “Gunnigle had a previously established audience and base of support from her previous election,” he said. “Combined with the fact with the democratic infrastructure that’s out there and been supporting her in the past, and she’s been able to get that optimized and utilized right away.”

A spokesperson for the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office says E-Qual was first authorized in 2011. At the time, it only allowed candidates to collect up to 50% of their required signatures this way. But, since then, it’s expanded. It’s not available in every race and cities have to opt-in for their local elections.

Bentz says a drawback could be getting people to get online again this late in the game. “Anyone who has already signed, you have to motivate them to get back into the system and sign in again to sign a petition for something that wasn’t there previously,” Bentz said.

The Secretary of State’s Office also says E-Qual automatically verifies the eligibility of the voter to sign using the statewide voter registration database. That’s not the case with paper, which is why candidates typically collect thousands of additional signatures in the case some are thrown out.