EZZELL v. LACK, 2021 OK 5

Opinion:EZZELL v. LACK, 2021 OK 5
Subject matter: Municipal law; Recall elections
Date Decided:January 26, 2021
Trial Court:District Court of Garfield County (J. Lafferty)
Route to this Court:Final order of District Court. Retained by the Court on Appellant’s motion. 
Facts:Voters in the City of Enid presented a recall petition to City of Enid officials seeking to recall the Plaintiff (a City Commissioner) for his support of a city wide mask mandate. Plaintiff filed an objection to the recall petition in the District Court of Garfield County on the basis that the petition did not comply with state statutes with respect to signature collection. The trial court denied the protest and determined that the petition was sufficient under the City’s recall process. 
Standard of Review:Not specified, but appears to be de novo in that the Court is deciding if a state statute is applicable to the controversy. However, the Court also alludes to the general deference given to the results of an election in the absence of fraud or corruption and states, “…in the presence of merely statutory informalities, the results of the election will not be invalidated.” 
Analysis:The City of Enid City Charter directs the application of state general election laws to city elections, unless the state laws conflict with Charter provisions. Because there is no conflict between the Charter recall process, and the additional state requirements governing signature collection, the state statute governs, but were not property followed. Therefore, the recall petition is insufficient on its face. “A statutory provision which is essential to guard against fraud, corruption and deception in the election process must be viewed as an indispensable requirement and failure to substantially comply therewith is fatal.” 
Outcome:Trial court is reversed.
Vote:Opinion by J. Kauger. Concur: Darby, C.J., Kauger, Edmondson, Combs, Gurich, JJ. Concur in result: Kane, V.C.J. (by separate writing). Dissent: Winchester, J. (by separate writing) and Rowe, J.
Other: On December 4, 2020, the Court placed the case on its “fast track docket.”