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Americans Deserve Recall Power
Thursday, 22 April 2010 05:48
by Joel S. Hirschhorn

Nothing is more powerful in a democracy than fed up citizens lawfully yanking public officials out of their jobs. Considering all the frustration and anger about government that is too big, expensive, corrupt and dysfunctional, it is wise to consider how much better American democracy would be if citizens could recall members of Congress, the President and even Supreme Court Justices. In a world moving at faster and faster speeds why wait for the usual ways to fix government, especially when none of them seem to work?

Fearful politicians have given citizens in relatively few states and local governments the right to recall government officials. A most memorable and recent recall was the governor of California, Gray Davis, in 2003.

Direct voting to recall government officials is a prime example of direct democracy. The action may be called a recall election or a recall referendum. It is needed when representative democracy fails the public. Which most Americans definitely think is the case for Congress.

Only eighteen states allow recall of state officials. Specific grounds for recall are required in only eight states. Eleven states allow recall of judicial officials. In at least 29 states (some sources place this number at 36), recall elections may be held in local jurisdictions. Three-fourths of recall actions in the US are at the city council or school board level.

Here are some other recent successful recalls.

1983 recall efforts of two Michigan state senators

1988 recall of Oregon state legislator

1995 recall of two California Assembly members

2002 recall of mayor of Flint, Michigan.

2002 recall of multiple Milwaukee County, Wisconsin, elected county officials

2003 recall of Wisconsin State Senator

2005 recall of mayor of Spokane, Washington.

2006 recall of mayor of Roosevelt, New Jersey

In 1988, Arizona voters filed enough signatures to trigger a recall election for Governor Evan Mecham, but he was impeached by the state's House of Representatives before the date of the scheduled recall election.

In some places the successor to a recalled official is elected at the same time, others in a special election afterwards and in others by appointment.

Right now there is no way to recall federal officials. Don’t you think it is time to change this? If you do, then understand that there must be a constitutional amendment and clearly Congress will never propose such an amendment.

What is the alternative? The Founders gave us the path to such reform. They gave us the option in Article V of a convention of state delegates that has the same power as Congress to propose constitutional amendments. Learn about it at Friends of the Article V Convention website, and learn why Congress has refused to obey the Constitution and give us the convention that over 700 applications from all 50 states have asked for.

Recall should be seen as a serious alternative to voting federal incumbents out of office. This has never worked to any significant degree for a host of reasons, despite serious attempts to vote out congressional incumbents. Prime among them is that once in office members of Congress become addicted to power and corrupted by money used to stay in office.

What about term limits? This sounds good, but here too many people once in office may do things that the public condemns while still within their allowed terms. Better to have them fearful of being recalled rather than not being reelected. Also note that impeachment and criminal prosecution are difficult legal processes to remove an official from office. Usually it is incompetence, dishonesty and nonresponsiveness to constituents that angers people.

There is probably more discussion now about constitutional amendments than in a very long time. But, oddly, those who seek true reforms seem oblivious to the enormous power of the recall option. Think about it. We the people should have the sovereign right to fire federal officials, especially members of Congress, but even the President and Supreme Court Justices. That way they are more likely to respect the Constitution and really listen to we the people, rather than the corporate and other special interests that feed them big money so they can keep telling us big lies. If we don’t get the power to fire bad government officials, then future generations will pay a very, very high price.

Don’t be a constitutional hypocrite. Support using the Article V convention option. Let your members of Congress know that you want one. Let everyone know you support having the recall option for federal officials. If all government officials work for us, then we need the constitutional right to fire them. If you want to take back your country from the rich and powerful, then recall power is needed. Power to the people!


Contact Joel S. Hirschhorn through delusionaldemocracy.com.

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