While the city clerk must officially verify the submissions, Unite Norman organizers say they have turned in enough signatures to force a recall election for Norman Mayor Breea Clark and Councilwoman Alison Petrone. They fell short, however, in their attempts to recall two other councilmembers.
The group said Friday it has collected more than 20,500 signatures since mid-July in its effort to recall Clark. To trigger a recall election in Norman, signatures must be submitted from at least 25 percent of registered voters in a politician’s jurisdiction. For Clark, who represents the entire city, that would be 18,124 people.
Organizers said their submission is three times the number of people who voted for Clark when she was elected in February 2019. Clark received 6,719 votes out of 13,068 cast. Her current term is set to expire in July 2022.
Clark said Friday afternoon that she remains focused on the present, rather than a possible recall election in the future.
“I will be happy to comment once the signatures have been verified,” Clark said in a text to NonDoc. “In the meantime, I will continue to focus on doing my job instead of worrying about losing my job.”
The recall elections would be set for sometime in January 2021 ahead of the city’s typical February election.
Recall effort background
Unite Norman formed in the wake of the City Council’s decision to redirect more than $850,000 from the current fiscal year’s Norman Police Department budget to other city services. Despite that decision, the police department’s budget is still larger than the previous fiscal year, but residents who were frustrated by the decision — and a separate failed proposal to cut $4.5 million from the department — decided to pursue a recall effort.
On Wednesday, the group said it was seeking a 10-day extension to gather more signatures. Organizers said they made the request because of what they called harassment of signature gatherers and impersonation of Unite Norman members. But Norman city attorney Kathryn Walker denied the request because she said it did not meet the criteria necessary to grant an extension.
The group also said it turned in about 3,000 signatures Thursday in its effort to recall Ward 3 Councilwoman Alison Petrone, who was first elected to the west-Norman ward in 2019.
Unite Norman organizers also said they submitted 3,000 signatures to recall Ward 5 Councilwoman Sereta Wilson, who has already announced her resignation after their effort began.
All of the signatures will need to be verified by Norman City Clerk Brenda Hall.
Smith: ‘This is a significant endeavor’
In a press release Friday, Unite Norman also provided information about those signing the petitions. The group estimates that 49 percent of signatories were women, and it says its supporters also span many age demographics. Organizers said 37 percent of those who signed were under 50-years-old, while 32 percent were age 50 to 65 and 31 percent were 65 or older.
“This is a significant endeavor,” Unite Norman co-founder Russell Smith said in the press release. “We’re extraordinarily proud of our effort, and for every brave Normanite who stood up to be counted.”
Tim Willert of The Oklahoman reported that the group did not reach the signature threshold necessary to trigger a recall election of Ward 7 Councilman Stephen Holman and Ward 1 Councilwoman Kate Bierman.