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This page contains a single entry by Westley Annis published on April 3, 2007 10:42 PM.

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Recall the Recall Law?

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State Senator Walter Boasso has introduced Senate Bill 22 for the 2007 Regular Session, slated to start at Noon on April 30. Sen. Boasso's bill would reduce the number of signatures needed to force a recall election by tying it to the number of total votes cast in the election that elected the official being recalled.

In brief, the bill proposes three changes:

1) Proposed law provides that a recall election will be called when a petition containing signatures of not less than 33-1/3% of those electors who voted in the most recent election to elect the public officer within the voting area and for which the recall election was

2) Remotes the provision that increases the percentage needed to 40% when the number of voters is less than 1,000.

3) Proposed law provides that the registrar certify as to the following on the recall petition: the number of names appearing on the petition; the number of persons who are electors in the voting area; and the number of votes cast by the electors in the most recent election to elect the public officer in the voting area within the parish as of the date of the filing of the petition with the secretary of state.

Although this debate is not about whether or not a recall election is possible, it will spark arguments on that very topic as well as what the requirements are for a recall.

Although recall elections have been around since at least 1631, they have had a spotty record of being implemented, much less actually being used. The General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony of 1631 and the Massachusetts Charter of 1691 both included recall provisions in their charter.

Recall provisions were also written into the majority of state constitutions after the thirteen colonies won their independence from Britain. As such, it was also written in the Articles of Confederation, although it was never actually used while the Articles were in use.

With the drafting of a new Constitution for the United States, recall provisions were proposed by Edmund Randolph of Virginia. But, two weeks later, Charles Pinckney of South Carolina made a successful motion to have it struck out.

Since that time, recalls were unheard of until the introduction of recalls in the City of Los Angeles in 1903. Five years later, in 1908, Michigan and Oregon became the first states to enact recall provisions for state officials. To date, only 18 states, along with t he District of Columbia, have provisions for recall elections (the State of Virgina allows recalls by trials not elections and is not counted in the above).

Those who support recall elections claim it is a way for citizens to retain control over their elected officials, to ensure the officials are representing the best interests of their constituents.

Those against recalls say it holds too much power over elected officials. Instead of allowing them to act in the best interest of the state, they may be more worried about the reactions from their constituents or other special interests.

Given the history of successful recalls, I think it can be said that there are enough safe-guards in place to guard against frivolous recall petitions. The only two governors to ever be recalled have been Governor Lynn J. Frazier of North Dakota in 1921 and Governor Gray Davis of California in 2003, a span of 82 years.

State legislators have a greater probability, although still slim, of being recalled than governors, with seven state legislators being recalled between 1911 and 1988.

Recall elections are most common for local districts and school boards.

Now, Senator Boasso wants to make it easier to force a recall election in the State of Louisiana. I'm not sure if this has anything to do with the unsuccessful recall of Governor Blanco after Hurricane Katrina.

On the surface, it seems to be a good idea to loosen the reins a bit. Louisiana has never recalled a governor before, so we're not abusing the power. Reducing the number of signatures needed to coincide with the number of actual people who voted in the election that put the official in office has a certain senseness to it.

Consider that you can have less than 50% voter turnout of an election with such high profiles races as president and/or governor, it greatly skews the requirements when looking solely at the number of register voters.

Look at this from a pure numbers stand point.

Assume you have 1,000 registered voters, but only 500 vote in the election. Under current law, you need signatures from 33% of the registered voters or 333 signatures. Compared to the number of people who actually voted, that is a sign-up rate of 66%.

Senator Boasso's bill would drop that 66% mark back down to the 33% mark by looking only at the number of people who actually cared enough to cast a vote. It doesn't prevent anyone who didn't vote in that election from signing a recall petition, but it does put the power back into the hands of those cared to begin with.

In my eyes it makes perfect sense, but it will probably scare the hell out of entrenched politicians. Just gives even more reason to support it.


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