Monday, June 18, 2018

Arizona: Wickenburg Council members recall falls short, faces investigation

Petitions against Council members Kelly Blunt and Royce Kardinal have failed, with the Attorney General now conducting a criminal investigation into whether some of the signatures were fraudulent. Petitions needed 304 valids signatures. They handed in 317 signatures for Kardinal -- they got 271 for that one and 282 for Blunt.

Maine: Yarmouth voters approve recall law

The vote in favor was 1706-1058.

Wisconsin: Signatures handed in against Dover Town Chairman

460 signatures were handed in against Town Chairman Mario Lena over claims that is not conducting town meetings according to Robert's Rules of Order and other claims of unprofessional behavior. Lena accused past leaders of embezzlement and fraud. Petitioners need 411 valids.

Sunday, June 17, 2018

Kansas: Garden City Community College Board of Trustee members facing recall threats

A blow-up in a Community College has led to recall efforts against six trustees. Chair Steve Martinez, Vice Chair Terri Worf, Blake Wasinger, Merulyn Douglass and Jeff Crist. A separate recall has been started against Trustee Leonard Hitz. The petitions against the first five were rejected. The Hirtz one is still being considered.

The recall effort appears to have started with harassment, intimidation and bullying charges against the College President that has led to calls for his dismissal.

Hirtz is facing a recall effort following claims that he inappropriately touched students at a graduation ceremony. The petitions come after a video was anonymously mailed to trustees and local news outlets of the graduation showing Hitz on the line of trustees congratulating students.

The recall also appears to be about financial claims  and a "lack of respect for the college's processes."

Petitioners would need 1042 signatures to get on the ballot. One of the leaders of the petition is the CEO of American Warrior Cecil O'Brate, another is a former state Senator's wife and a third is the College's former Public Relations and Marketing Director.

Michigan: Macomb Township Trustee resigns from Zoning Board in face of recall effort

Trustee Dino Bucci, who is under indictment on bribery, extortion, money laundering and fraud charges and has not shown appeared at a trustee meeting since his November indictment, has resigned from a zoning board position. Petitions for his recall have been approved and are awaiting an appeal. Petitioners need 6846 signatures to get on the ballot.

Maine: Waterville Mayor, Councilman survive recall votes

Mayor Nick Isgro (R) (1563-1472) and Councilman John O'Donnell (D) (270-257) both narrowly survived recall votes on Tuesday.

The Isgro recall was over his twitter posts attacking Parkland school shooting survivors and criticism of an anti-sexual harassment bill. Isgro has since asked for an apology and reimbursement for the recall effort.

The O'Donnell recall was started due to the method of his selection (he was appointed to fill the seat), though some reports tied it to a strategy to ward off the Isgro recall.

Here's a look at Maine's use of the recall.

California: Del Norte Supervisors facing petitions led by former Chair of Cannabis Working Group

Supervisors Rodger Gitlin and Bob Berkowitz are facing recall efforts led by the former head of the Del Norte County Cannabis Working Group, so a good chance that it revolves around cannabis/marijuana regulation issues. Petitioners would need 25% of voters -- 580 for Gitlin, 756 for Berkowitz.

Michigan: Three Ross Township officials face petitions over medical marijuana zoning vote

Treasurer Cynthia Genung and Trustees Sidney Durham and Diana Langshaw are facing a recall attempt over their votes in favor of an ordinance that would allow medical marijuana processors and growers in an industrial district. Petitioners need 561 signatures to get on the ballot.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Michigan: Petition gathering started in Mayfield Township recall

Petitions have been approved for the recall effort against Supervisor Dianna Ireland over her vote to form an independent fire department. That plan has since been withdrawn. Petitioners need 670 signatures by August 3 to be on the general election ballot.

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

California: State Senator Josh Newman reportedly losing recall run

Newman (D) has been behind all night, but so far, there hasn't been an official call.

California: Santa Clara Judge Aaron Persky reportedly defeated in recall race

It looks like Judge Aaron Persky will be the first judge to be removed by recall in the US since 1977, and the first one in California since 1932. Reports have him losing by close to 60%. Recall supporter Santa Clara Assistant DA Cindy Seeley Hendrickson appears to be the overwhelming choice to win the replacement race.

Monday, June 4, 2018

What to Expect When You're Expecting a Recall: Santa Clara Judicial Division

The recall of Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky is an historic one – the first in the country since 1982 and the first in California since Herbert Hoover was in office.  Persky is targeted over his sentencing of Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner to a six month jail term for sexual assault.

Petitioners, led by Stanford University Professor Michele Dauber, handed in close to 95,000 signatures. The Registrar used a random sampling method and showed that the recall would make the ballot, so unlike many other recalls, there is no fully verified number of signatures.

The Persky recall is the first in the country against a judge since Wisconsin Judge William Reinecke in 1982 (he survived the vote). The last successful one was in 1977 (also in Wisconsin against Archie Simonson). Both of those were also directly related to sexual assault issues. Those two judges made disparaging comments about victims from the bench, leading to a firestorm of criticism.

 In 2016, there was a recall against a Wheeler County Judge, though that seemed to really be an executive position more than a judicial one. Nevada had an attempted recall of judge in 2015 that was thrown out and declared unconstitutional by the Nevada Supreme Court in 2017.

The last recalls of a Judge in California took place in 1932 against Los Angeles Superior Court Judges John L. Fleming, Dailey S. Stafford and Walter Guerin. All three were removed. There were only a few before then, notably one in 1913 that was over similar leniency in sex crimes. (Leniency in sex crimes is a common factor in many threatened recalls of judges -- here's one in Orange County and another in Montana).

Note that there are many retention elections that are incorrectly described as recalls -- most notably California Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird, Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin in 1986 and three Supreme Court members in Iowa.
History of the recall against Judges

Using the recall against a judge has always been controversial. California's recall law almost floundered over this issue back in 1911. Though the California courts were seen as in the tight grip of the "octopus" grip of the Southern Pacific (the powerful institution that was seen as the most important political and economic player in the state), many legislators were opposed to putting judges under the recall law. News accounts of the day suggested that the legislator were seriously considering exempting judges for the recall law, but  a late-breaking state Supreme Court scandal, where the court ordered a rehearing of the sentences of the political leaders in a scandal in San Francisco (with one of the judge's signing the decision without considering the filed briefs) turned the tide.

On the national level, President William Howard Taft vetoed the Arizona constitution over a recall of judges’ provision and the recall of judges and something called the recall of judicial decisions (an idea that seems to have died by 1930) was one of the key flash points in the Taft- Theodore Roosevelt split in 1912.

As it is, six states appear to carve out an exemption for judges in their recall law.

Also, just to define our terms: I call this subject the recall of a judge, rather than judicial recall. In the history and the literature the term Judicial Recall refers to something totally different (what I call the malfeasance standard or for cause recalls). A judicial recall occurs in states and jurisdictions where a judge is required to rule on whether a recall meets a specific standard to get on the ballot. Essentially, the official has to have violated the law or shown demonstrable incompetence for the recall to be placed on the ballot. It has nothing to do with removing judges. I keep this divide up so as not to confuse people who may be conversant or studying the literature. T

In addition to getting all those signatures, petitioners overcame California’s
grace period. California law does not allow a recall in the last six months of a term unless the official is appointed or in the first three months of a new term. Persky won reelection in November 2016 and petitioners had to wait out a delay before they were allowed to begin gathering signatures.

How the Recall Works:

California’s recall is what I call a two-step/same-day recall vote -- voters cast one ballot which has two parts: step one is the question (not using the literal language) of "Should this official be recalled?" and step two is "Who should be named as a replacement?" The only state that mimics this exact process is Colorado.

Under California law, Persky cannot run in the replacement race. There are two candidates who are running as replacements: Santa Clara Assistant District Attorney Cindy Seeley Hendrickson (who has the endorsement of Dauber) and attorney Angela Storey, who opposed the recall.

What to Expect When You're Expecting a Recall: California State Senate edition

June 5 is set to be a big day, thanks to two very notable recalls taking place in California.
  • State Senator Josh Newman (D) is facing a legislative recall, the first in the state in almost a decade and the first anywhere in the country since 2013.
  • Santa Clara Judge Aaron Persky is facing a recall vote. Persky is the first full-time judge anywhere in the country since 1982. If he is removed, he will be the first to be kicked out by recall since 1977. In California, no judge has faced a recall since the days of Herbert Hoover in 1932. 

Let’s look at Newman in this post and Persky in the next.

Newman will be the 39th state legislator to face a recall vote since 1913. He is the ninth California legislator on that list and the first since then-state Senator Jeff Denham in 2008 (in a similar situation).

The last state legislative recalls in the country took place in Colorado in 2013, where two Democratic state Senators, Senate President John Morse and Angela Giron, were removed over their support for gun control legislation. The Newman recall is ostensibly over his vote in favor of a gas tax, but there is a very clear political/legislative strategy focus to the recall, of a type that we’ve seen many times in the past. Newman’s district is one of the closest contested ones in the state, and Newman won office by less than 2500 votes.

If Newman is ousted and replaced by a Republican, the Republicans will then prevent the Democrats from retaining a two-thirds majority in the Senate.

 Political Recalls:

Whatever the issues surrounding the gas tax, the Newman recall appears to have been launched over an attempt to deprive the Democrats of a two-third majority in both houses.

In the past, there have been multiple attempts to use the recall to “flip the chamber” – including the historic California recall battles of 1995. In 2008, the Democratic leadership tried to recall Senator Denham in order to gain the 2/3rds majority – they failed, as Denham easily won the office and then went on to win a Congressional seat.

There were also attempts to recall three state Senators in Nevada this year (two Democrats, one-Independent). One failed to get enough signatures, the others failed following the handing in of signatures.

The Recall Explosion:

Recalls generally result in removal – from 2011-2017, close to 60% of recalls that get to the ballot result in the official losing the vote (plus many others result in resignation before a vote. State legislative recalls are much closer to 50-50, the success breakdown is 20-18 in favor of removals -- but Wisconsin really skews the numbers. In 2012-2013, 13 legislators faced recalls and only three were removed (I count this resignation in the survived a recall column, as the Republicans easily retained the seat).

The vast majority of legislative recalls have taken place in recent years -- only five took place before 1971, and 21 will have taken place since 2003 (plus two of the four gubernatorial -- if we count Arizona's Evan Meacham in 1988-- recalls to get to the ballot took place in that time).

What explains the explosion? Many cite increased partisanship. I am skeptical of that explanation, and have argued that technological innovations (and possibly a drop in voter turnout and registration) are really responsible for the lion's share of the growth.

Other States:
18 states have the recall for state level officials (plus Illinois has it just for governors and Virginia has something called a recall trial). Of those 18 states, 9 have held state-level office recalls. There is a very significant breakdown between those states. 11 of the states have a political recall (an official can be recalled for any reason); 7 have a judicial recall or malfeasance standard (the official must have violated one of a specified list of causes, such as being indicted).

Of the nine states that have held state level recalls, eight of them have been political recall states (California, Wisconsin, Michigan, Oregon, Arizona, Idaho, North Dakota, Colorado). The only recall on the state level in a malfeasance standard state was in Washington in 1981 (the malfeasance was switching parties -- the official survived).

Give me Two Steps:

California’s recall is what I call a two-step/same-day recall vote -- voters cast one ballot which has two parts: step one is the question (not using the literal language) of "Should this official be recalled?" and step two is "Who should be named as a replacement?" The only state that has this exact process is Colorado. There are six candidates running the replacement race. Newman is not allowed to run to replace himself.

In Colorado in 2013, the hybrid process was received significant attention for two reasons. One is the question of whether the recall itself (the first vote) is actually an election or an issue campaign. There is a difference in how money may be spent by parties if it is an issue campaign. The second point, which two courts have ruled on was the question of whether you could be barred from voting in the replacement race if you don’t vote on the recall question. This same question came up in California in 2003. The Ninth Circuit ruled this provision unconstitutional (under the 1st and 14th Amendments). In a 5-2 decision, the Colorado Supreme Court apparently followed the same logic.

Party Line -- Is one party more likely to use recalls?
I constantly get asked about the party breakdowns of the recall. Most of the recalls are on the local level, where the position is elected on a nonpartisan basis. When there is a partisan position, the party label is frequently a misleading method to judge recall use, as many are not based on D v. R partisan motivations. Sometimes Republicans recall Republicans, and Democrats recall Democrats.

However, you would see both parties are not shy about using recalls (for example of the 14 state legislative recalls from 1981-2008, most were launched against Democrats, and ethics played very little role in those recalls). Democrats have launched the majority of the recalls in 2012-13 on the state level, which makes sense as the lost power in 2010.

Republicans or their backers have not been shy about using the recall for partisan gain (for example, Michigan, 1983, California, 1994, 1995 and 2003, Colorado in 2013). Same thing with Democrats (Wisconsin in 2011-12, 2008 California). So, which party is most likely to launch a recall? Simple -- the one that is not in office.

Blowouts v. Barnburners:
I wouldn't expect a blowout, but throughout history recalls have tended that way. Here's a look at some of the history of blowouts  and some close races.

Man is opposed to fair play, he wants it all, and he wants it his way: The inevitable post-recall reform act

We have heard, and will continue to hear complaints about the unfair use of the recall. But these complaints can generally be dismissed out of hand. Why? There have been a number of principled opponents of the recall. Alexander Hamilton and William Howard Taft lead the pack in US history with their great dislike for the recall. Among modern commentators, the only one that I can think of is George Will. But they are few and far between.

Similarly, after major recalls, the first action by the recall opponents is to propose a reform to the law. Wisconsin  has tried to do it. In 2011, Arizona tried to add a recall primary and other changes, and put a law on the books mandating strict construction of the law. Michigan actually changed its law following the successful Paul Scott recall in 2011 and has probably cut down on the amount of recalls in the state (as well as removed the replacement race for Governor). Others have done same after a recall loss.

In this case, the Democrats made these changes before the recall. They passed a law that allowed petition-signers to remove their name from petitions (a law that had an immediate impact in another race) as well as change the contribution limits so that Newman’s colleagues in the state Senate could help him in the race. Both of these provisions have been tied up in the courts, though it has allowed the recall of Newman to be delayed until primary day (which my eventually to be published statistics suggests may not matter). The law also requires the Board of Elections to estimate the costs of the recall.

These changes rarely involve going to the voters (I know of one example on the local level of such a change being passed by voters). Polls keep showing complaints about the recall, but they are not borne out by the results. In Wisconsin, one poll showed 70% of the voters opposed to the recall (60% wanted it used for corruption/malfeasance only; 10% thought it should never be used). Yet, despite that about 47% of the voters cast a ballot to toss Walker out.

We had a similar poll in Colorado, where almost 60% of voters opposed the use of the recall against Morse and Giron. The breakdown of the polls were very illuminating -- Republicans were much more in favor (62% for Morse; 47% for anyone for political reasons) of the recall than Democrats. The reality is that support or opposition to the recall depends heavily on whether it is an official from your favored party facing the voters.

Most of the people who complain about the recall are just really complaining about the recall being used against their side. In the past, Scott Walker signed petitions seeking policy-focused recalls. Bill Clinton was certainly not supporting the Gray Davis recall.

You want to know if somebody has a principled position on the recall? Look back at their positions on both the Gray Davis and Scott Walker ones. See if there is any consistency. What you will likely find is that the person just didn't want their candidate to lose, and they're hoping you either agree or just don't look into it.

Recall Survivors: Risin' up, straight to the top?
Surviving a recall can boost a career. Scott Walker survived and is now a major national figure, even with an early flame-out in his presidential attempt in 2016. Dianne Feinstein won the San Francisco Mayoral recall against her in 1983. By 1984 she was being *talked about for the VP and was the US Senator by 1992. Jeff Denham is now in Congress. Also, for what it's worth, filmmaker Michael Moore survived a recall before his career took off.

How a Resurrection Really Feels
Is a recall loss the end of a career? Not always. The most obvious example is North Dakota Governor Lynn Frazier was the first Governor to be recalled back in 1921. He was elected to the first of the three US Senate terms 18 months later. Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill lost a recall in 1914 and was back in office the following term.

No future, no future for you?
Another big question that I'm constantly asked: Will we see a cycle of recall revenge? I remember similar questions after Gray Davis was recalled, and in fact this has been a constant warning cry of recall opponents since the recall was first adopted over a century ago. Recalls are clearly a part of political life, but as can be seen by the nearly five year hiatus from state legislature, they can wax and wane. The Recall is truly the Bermuda Triangle of politics.

Louisiana: Governor signs recall law easing signature gathering requirements


Michigan: Calumet Trustee facing a petition over marijuana law vote

Petitions to recall Trustee Virginia Dwyer has been approved. Petitioners need 18 signatures. The issue is a vote over opting-in to the state's marijuana law/

Friday, June 1, 2018

Texas: Petitions being counted in Groves Councilman recall

Signatures are being still being counted in the recall against Councilman Cross Coburn, following the anonymous release of photos of him, including one that has male nudity (Coburn is openly gay). Petitioners needs 893 valid signatures.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Nevada: Recall proponents appeal court ruling stopping state Senate recalls

Petitioners are appealing the question of whether signatures can be removed. Petitioners handed in enough signatures to recall Senator Nicole Cannizzaro (D) and Senator Joyce Woodhouse (D), but the signature withdrawals took them below the needed amount.

Oregon: Port of Brookings Harbor Commissioners recall set for May 29

Commissioners Angi Christian (2156-1033) and Jan Barbas (2171-1015) were both kicked out on in the May 29 recall. The recall was over the firing of the Port Manager has been set for May 29.

Commissioners Roger Thompson and Andy Martin both resigned after the petitions were handed in.

California: Santa Clara County Judge poll shows numbers drop in recall support, but removal still leading

A Survey USA poll shows 49%-36% in favor of the recall, down from 56% in favor in March.