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Recall Details

A recall election (also called a recall referendum or representative recall) is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before his or her term has ended. Recalls, which are initiated when sufficient voters sign a petition. The minimum number of signatures and the time limit to qualify a recall vary among the states. In some states, a recall triggers a simultaneous special election, where the vote on the recall, as well as the vote on the replacement if the recall succeeds, are on the same ballot.


Recall differs from another method for removing officials from office such as “impeachment”.  Recall is a political device while impeachment is a legal process. Impeachment requires the House to bring specific charges and the Senate to act as a jury.


Recall first appeared in Colonial America in the laws of the General Court of the Massachusetts Bay Colony in 1631. This version of the recall involved one elected body removing another official. During the American Revolution the Articles of Confederation stipulated that state legislatures might recall delegates from the continental congress.


Two governors have been successfully recalled. In 1921, Lynn Frazier, Governor of North Dakota, was recalled during a dispute about state-owned industries. In 2003, Governor Gray Davis of California was recalled over the state budget. In 2012, Wisconsin's governor, Scott Walker became the first US governor to survive a recall election. Additionally, in 1988, a recall was approved against Arizona Governor Evan Mecham, but he was impeached and convicted before it got on the ballot.


In some states, specific grounds are required for a recall. Some form of malfeasance or misconduct while in office must be identified by the petitioners. The target may choose to dispute the validity of the grounds in court, and a court then judges whether the allegations in the petition rise to a level where a recall is necessary. In the 2nd of November 2010 general election, Illinois passed a referendum to amend the state constitution to allow a recall in light of ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich's corruption scandal. In the other eleven states that permit state-wide recall, no grounds are required and recall petitions may be circulated for any reason. However, the target is permitted to submit responses to the stated reasons for recall.


In some states the target may be replaced at a general election. In other states, a separate special election is held after the target is recalled, or a replacement is appointed by the Governor or some other state authority.  In 2011, there were at least 150 recall elections in the United States.


While most states allow governors to be impeached, only 19 states and District of Columbia have voter-recall provisions. The states are AK, AZ, CA, CO, GA, ID, IL, KS, LA, MI, MN, MO, NV, NJ, ND, OR, RI, WA, WI.  VA’s recall law is different and requires a court trial.




Extracts and information taken from: Wikipedia October 18, 2013; and, NCSL, Recall of State Officials, September 11, 2013.  (The Hawaii Senate Minority Research Office does not guarantee the accuracy of the historical information.)


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