This year in my town there is a recall election being held for Senate President Russel K Pearce. The first of its kind in history. Senator Pearce is best known as the author of the controversial Arizona SB1070 bill. President Pearce is not the only one on the chopping block this year. In 2011 the populous of many states have caught Recall Fever. A result of elected officials taking a bold, some would call extreme, public policy paths that caused citizens to become so irate they sent out a very stern YOU’RE FIRED! message to these elected officials. They did not want to wait until the next scheduled election to remove them from office.
The recall tool is a powerful tool in the Civil Citizen’s tool kit. It is the nuclear bomb of the tool kit and should not to be used lightly or for minor infringements on an elected officials part. It is the unfortunate shadow side of the Democratic process that someone is going to be unhappy with a legislative decision. If one were to recall any elected official that offended some one the recall elections would get costly and ridiculous and would stop the ability of the government to do its work.
An official should not be recalled unless they are acting like a tyrant. That means they have shut the public completely out of the discussion of governance, they have taken all civil options of discourse off the table and/ or they are acting exclusively for personal benefit, in a corrupt fashion and not in accordance to the will of the people.
Politicians who are corrupt, who abuse their power, or who show extremist points of view once they are in power may need to be immediately recalled. If their actions are destructive to the well-being of the people they are supposed to represent, there are times when it is not appropriate to wait it out until the next election.
Petitions and signatures.
Traditionally, a recall involves the need to have residents of the district’s signatures added to a petition to get the process started. In the case of Senator Pearce the recall effort needed to obtain about 7, 775 signatures in order to have the Recall election considered. In this case the original count was around 18,000 that wanted to sign the petition to make a point to Senator Pearce. They were people from Arizona who wanted to relay to him that they were not happy with his performance.
To find out what specific number of signatures is needed in your area and to perhaps get some ideas about the wording appropriate for the petition, you may contact your local Election Officials to see what the procedure is where your electoral district.
In Maricopa County, where I live, the signatures were verified by the County Recorders office over 10,000 signatures were verified to be from registered voters in Pearce’s district. That is over 3,000 more than the recall effort needed to move forward.
After the signatures were verified Governor Jan Brewer had up to 15 days to decided whether the recall would take place in November of 2011 or in March of 2012 closer to when Pearce would face re-election anyway in the Fall of 2012. It was decided that the election would go through in November of 2011. A few contenders have stepped up one of the more promising by the name of Jerry Lewis.
Getting the Recall is just the first step.
It is important to note that getting the recall is just the first step. There still has to be an election. There is the possibility that the candidate being recalled can still win a recall election. It doesn’t happen often. Yet it can happen. Morale of the story being don’t count your chickens before they are hatched and never let a recall election be thought of as a done deal.
When a recall is called for the new candidate will need a lot of support. They’ll need to obtain signatures to enable them to run for office. They’ll need money for signs and advertising. They’ll need people to make phone calls to constituents and knock on doors to tell folks why the candidate is a better choice. A challengers takes on a tremendous risk when going out on a limb to challenge an incumbent in a recall. The whole election process must begin from scratch and the new candidate must be supported well in order to be successful.
Recall is a wonderful part of the Democratic process because it offers the opportunity for a peaceful exchange of power from one person to another. No one has to die or be put through physical pain to change the power structure to one that will make the majority happy. It is an important pressure valve to have in the political system. Hostile regime change is not good for anybody. It is better to cooperate with the fail-safes placed in the system.
As long as recalls are used responsibly they can be a good way to make sure that the will of the people is always respected in the Democratic process and that legislative priority remains faithfully in line with the best interest of those being governed.