For months, as Californians prepared to vote on whether to keep Governor Gray Davis in office, recalls have been a hot topic around the country. American City & County recently asked readers of its e-mail newsletter if it benefits a community for local government leaders to be subject to a recall, or if such provisions are bad for cities and counties. Respondents were divided. Below is a sampling of responses.
“Certainly, the recall provision should allow the public to remove an official in the instances of fraud and other criminal acts or gross incompetence. Yet it shouldn't be so easy as to allow public officials to be removed from office for one unpopular vote. This would tend to keep politicians from taking any stance without consulting public opinion polls. It is certainly an expensive and disruptive process that shouldn't be taken lightly. So, the recall provision should be available — but not too easy.”
— Elizabeth Chopp, city engineer, Chula Vista, Calif.
“If ours is a representative form of government and the representatives are elected by the people, the citizens should live with the choice the plurality/majority of voters have made. Elections serve to express the will of the people, and that is the proper time to oust an incumbent. A referendum to remove one from office should not be an option.”
— Sheila Noll, York County, Va., Board of Supervisors
“Recall provisions are democracy at its best. During an election, many promises are made, and some knowingly cannot be kept. There are always voters who are susceptible to the election rhetoric that goes on. In any case that the voters feel that they have collectively made an error in judgment, it is comforting to know that they have a recourse available. Most recall provisions are structured and cannot be done on a whim. I have seen it used many times at the local level, when the public perceives that the elected official has overextended their power.”
— Eileen King, treasurer, Riley County, Kan.