Friday, July 29, 2011

South Carolina: Times and Democrats suggest recall should be considered

They get the facts wrong, saying "Nineteen states and the District of Columbia give voters recall-voting power but such elections are rarely successful."

Arizona: Battle lines form in the Pearce recall


California: Women accused of forging signatures in San Jacinto City Council recall

This from the removal of four city councilmembers last May.

Wisconsin: More on the campaign spending boom


Michigan: Signatures turned in for Genesee Township recalls

Effort is targeting five township supervisors

Arizona: Pearce's survival instinct

Columnist looks at Pearce's previous political troubles and his ability to surmount them.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Australia: South Australia looking at modified recall law

This proposed recall law in South Australia one would be tough to get on the ballot -- 150,000 signatures in a month. But it would be a government-wide no-confidence vote, resulting in a full scale election.

Missouri: Lebanon mayor facing recall next week

Looks like a big day for small towns with big names. Lebanon, Missouri's mayor will be facing a recall next Tuesday. Once again, the Police Chief hiring and firing is one of the issues involved.

Alaska: Houston Mayor faces recall vote

Looks like this is the third mayor of Houston, Alaska to face a recall (or in one case, resign before a recall) in the last five years.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Look at Voter Turnout in the Two Wisconsin Primaries

A great piece by Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel comparing the voter turnout in the different primary races. It should be noted that the turnout is (except in one case) for primaries, so you would expect it to be lower than for the general. However, the turnout is quite high for a recall. Gilbert makes a number of comparisons to Wisconsin (including the Gary George recall which had 8% turnout -- though Gilbert told me that it was in a low-turnout area).

In other states, we've seen recall turnout appear very low, including in the hotly contested Michigan recalls of 1983 and the California ones of 1994-5. It may be that the Wisconsin recalls are that special event --like the Gray Davis recall -- that could result in higher turnout than in a regular general election.

South Carolina: Legislature considers adopting recall to remove Lt. Gov.

The state legislature is considering adopting the recall for "constitutional officers." The impetus is Lt. Gov. Ken Ard who is facing a host of ethics charges.

California: Recreation and Parks district members facing petitions

This is in Bay Point, three members of the Ambrose Recreation and Parks District. The Contra Costa Times:

The latest blowup in a long-running conflict between Mason and the board came over the trustees' decision last month to end a contract to run after-school programs in Bay Point.
The move resulted in the layoff of Mason's wife, Debra, who had founded the state-funded After School Education and Safety program in Bay Point in the late 1990s and the loss of jobs for program contractors who were under 18.

Wisconsin -- Petitions handed in for Ashland Mayor recall

Handed in 913 signatures, need 789 to get on the ballot. A number of City Councillors seem to be backing this, complaining about transparency and civility.

North Dakota -- Emerado Mayor recalled

Mayor of Emerado,North Dakota  Brent Aspinwall was recalled and removed by four votes. He is replaced by Dan Henneman. Apparently, those four votes are enough not to need a recount in the town of 400. The preceptating factor is said to be the resignation of the police chief.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Wisconsin: Democrat easily wins on Republican "own goal"

The first recall race, which was practically an own goal by the Republicans after their preferred candidate John Nygren failed to qualify for the ballot, appears to be over. With 89% of the vote in, the AP has apparently called it for Democratic Senator David Hansen, who so far has 66% of the vote.

As I just mentioned, blow-outs are the rule rather than the exception in state legislative recalls. Hansen's victory would definitely not be a record. In 2008, California Senator Jeff Denham cruised to defensive victory, winning with 75.6 percent of the vote. Denham's a model for officials facing a recall -- he is now in Congress.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Recalls and blow-outs

With tomorrow featuring the first actual state legislative recall vote in three years, one that according to polls the sitting official is suppose to win easily -- we should note that in state legislative recalls, blow-out victories appear to be the norm.

There are examples of close recalls -- the 1996 George Petak recall was 51-47, as was a 1914 one. But of the recalls that I have results for (11 of the 20), the winner (whether the elected official facing the recall or a challenger) generally triumphs with close to 2/3 the vote. Gary George, the last Wisconsin state legislator to face a recall, lost with 65% of the vote against him).  This same magical 60+% number was hit by all but one of the "fake" Democrat recall challengers in last week's primary races.

On the local level, there are also many blow-outs. from Miami-Dade's mayor (88% against) to Dianne Feinstein's successful defense (81%), Spokane's Jim West (65% against). Of course there are plenty of exceptions (Omaha's mayor survived 51-49) and probably more when the municipality or the district gets very small, but it does seem that recall votes are frequently overwhelming.

The unusual nature of the Wisconsin recalls, which is almost serving as a state-wide election, will probably mean that at least a number of them will be very close races. But for one-off recalls, you can't be surprised when an avalanche of votes all go one way.

Michigan: Blog and discussion of the 1983 recalls


Arizona: Governor Fundraising for Pearce

Governor Jan Brewer is starting fundraising for Pearce; Here is a primer on the rules; And Pearce may have a (Republican) challenger

Michigan: Recall Language approved in another Senate recall

This time against Senator Roger Kahn

Washington -- hearing on proposed recall of two fire commissioners

Hearing set for recall of two fire commissioners in Quilcene. Issue is falsifying the minutes to a meeting.

Arizona -- Mayor of highly contentious Quartsize facing recall

There have been three recalls in the last three years in Quartzsize, and the mayor is facing one next month.

Friday, July 15, 2011

The future of recall petitioning

I've mentioned the impact of technology on the growth of the recall. Look at this story on Maryland's petitioning process using a downloadable signature form. If this type of signature gathering is accepted in other states, it will have a big impact on the ease of getting an initiative or recall on the ballot.

Wisconsin: Record setting campaign spending

Senator Alberta Darling will break the record for the biggest spend for a Wisconsin state Senate seat; The Republican challenger in the Senator David Hansen recall next week does not have the best messaging points.

Electionline Weekly on the cost of Special Elections

A look at the different ways that Louisiana and Massachusetts pay for the specials.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Michigan: School Board in Bloomfield Hills

Recall language has been approved for three school board members in Bloomfield Hills. This follows on a June decision approving language for the other four members. Issue is a consolidation of two high schools.

Arkansas: Talk of recall of Fort Smith Directors


Wisconsin Polls

Gov. Walker and legislature are unpopular, the Recall as an idea is very popular, and voters are split on whether the current group of Senators should be recalled

Arizona: Phoenix City Council recall

Councilman discusses finances of effort against him, blaming firefighter unions.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Wisconsin recall updates

You can see the results of the six races here  (at the bottom of the page is a very close non-recall race for an Assembly seat). It looks like the regular Democratic candidates are leading and can be expected to win. There is one race that appears reasonably close -- District 10 (Sheila Harsdorf's seat). The Democratic challenger Shelly Moore is leading the Republican-backed challenger Isaac Weix 54-46 with 83% reporting. The Harsdorf seat is suppose to be close.

Arizona: Majority Leader Russell Pearce recall set for Election Day, Nov 8

Arizona Capital Times notes the huge hurdle for recall proponents. This will mean 10 recalls against state legislators this year. Compare that to the past 103 years, when there were a grand total of 20 combined.

Wisconsin -- Turnout, turnout, turnout

Of course, there is nothing to report yet, but turnout has been steady, with some mentioning higher than expected turnout. Because of the nature of these recalls (almost a state-wide referendum on the government), we should not expect our usual low-turnout recall election. The impact makes these recalls much harder to predict, and much more like a general election.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Nevada: Recall started against Nye County Assessor

Need 3600 signatures by October 4. Issue is racist comments about Hispanics.

Arizona: Pearce not allowed to accept Corporate donations

Taking a much different tack from the "anything goes " Wisconsin recall campaign finance rules, Arizona's state Solicitor General ruled that Majority Leader Russell Pearce cannot accept Corporate Donations in his race.

Tennessee: Nashville City Council Recall loser from two years ago running again

Nashville City Council race -- Pam Murray is running for her seat after losing it in a 2009 recall by two votes. Murray is still suing some of the recall backers

Michigan: Onondaga Township recall language approved

Onondaga Township recall language approved. It was rejected the first time. Recall is over approval of a drag strip.

Wisconsin -- Starting Gun starts tomorrow

Tomorrow will be the starting gun -- with the six Democratic primaries (for the Republican seats). There will be two Republican primaries next week, with one more recall to be decided. The other eight will go on to the full election on either August 9 (the Republican held seats) or August 16th (the Democratic ones).

Florida: North Bay Village Mayor petitions handed in

North Bay Village turn in signatures to start mayoral recall process. Complex procedure before this recall is going anywhere

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Wisconsin: Protest candidate claims recall laws to easy

La Crosse Tribune reports on one primary challenger's complaints; Piece has my comments noting that Wisconsin has some of the strictest recall laws in the country

Wisconsin: More on Fundraising

More on the unlimited donations issue

Recall Defenses: Does it matter if the recall proponents are viewed as a political party or as an interest group?

The nine Wisconsin recalls present an unusual comparison of tactical defenses. Is there an advantage if the recall is perceived to be launched by the opposing party or by a specific and well-defined interest group?

In Wisconsin, both parties have tried both tactics. The Republicans have claimed that the recalls were launched by the Democratic Party or they could have tried to tie the recall as being backed solely by a specific interest group -- labor unions. While the Democrats had less of a case to make, they could have used the interest group angle as well (and arguably did with the discussions of the Koch Brothers and other out of state backers).

As the following examples show, I believe that an official facing a recall would generally best be served by claiming it is an attack by a specific interest group, rather than claiming that it is a partisan battle.

Some major caveats: We are dealing with a very small sample size, so take this discussion with the requisite grain of salt. This is all about perception – people will always argue about the basis of a recall. This discussion is about the generally accepted popular perception.

Almost all recalls are claimed to be launched by unaffiliated concerned citizens, not by a party or interest group. But not all recalls are equal. Some are clearly opposition party backed. Others are from local groups of citizens, many with political axes to grind. Most of these are tied to a specific issue (taxes, pay raises for legislators, local school board initiative).

However, there are a few recalls that stand out as being interest group-directed. While the recalls are tied to an issue, the recall never appears to be more than a test of that interest group’s power. It is the latter group that we are looking at.  By interest group, I am talking about well-known groups (in these cases, labor unions and the NRA).

Partisan Recalls:
What we have seen is that voters have not been turned off by recalls undertaken for purely partisan purposes, especially if the district is right. The California recall wars of 1995 were straightforward political recalls, undertaken to gain or maintain power in the legislature. Two of the three succeeded (though both of the removed officials had voted against their party and helped the Democrats gain control of the legislature).  The California recall of 1914 against E.E. Grant also appears to be a successful partisan recall (albeit warring local factions). On the negative side of the ledger, the recall of California Senator Jeff Denham, which appeared to be undertaken to pick off a Republican seat and gain a two-thirds veto-overriding majority, did not succeed.

To these few, we can add some other high profile recalls. Despite all the hoopla, Gray Davis was arguably a fairly straightforward political recall. And the Michigan Senators who were recalled for tax increases in 1983 (which flipped the chamber from D to R) may also have been considered political (this one is certainly debatable). What we see from this small sample is that voters are not turned off by a nakedly political power grab.

Interest Group Recalls:
On the other hand, voters have rejected what appears to be pure interest group recalls.

Let’s look at the two best examples. This first, in 1913, was against California Senator James Owens. According to recall historians Fredrick Bird and Frances Ryan, it was launched by labor groups as a "test of the effectiveness of the recall against an unfaithful legislator who fails to live up to preelection promises and platform pledges.” But the Democratic Party backed Owens. As Bird and Ryan note, rather than proving labor’s strength,  "(t)he alignment of forces in the recall campaign was conclusive proof that labor planks in a party platform are not always to be taken too seriously....” Senator Owens managed to fight off the recall by the comfortable margin of 6,749 to 5,177.

The other interest group recall was against California Senate President Pro Tempore and Democratic leader David Roberti. Roberti was a leader in passing a ban on semiautomatic assault weapons in 1989, and was a major supporter of gun control initiatives. This angered anti-gun control forces, which decided to make a test case of Roberti. The Roberti recall drew national attention as a test of the strength of the gun lobby. Roberti easily defeated the recall on April 12, 1994, garnering fifty-nine percent of the vote.

There are plenty of other recalls, especially on the local levels, that could be seen as interest group recalls. But I don’t see any evidence that disputes the general theme that interest group recalls do not seem to succeed.

Why interest groups may be the best villain:
By necessity, interest groups are representing a smaller group of constituents than one of the two major political parties. There are plenty of voters in both parties that dislike a specific interest group, even if they are tied into their own party’s base, and these voters may be especially turned off by the belief that an interest group is flexing its muscle in such a direct manner.

Of course, there are advantages to claiming that the recall is partisan-based. It is more likely to turn out your base (though at the risk of turning out the other side’s base as well). It is also more likely to lead to a campaign donation bonanza (as has been the case in Wisconsin). However, on the whole, a specific, easily defined interest group is probably the best villain for a recall defense.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Massachusetts: Lawrence recall moves forward

Recall against mayor of Lawrence set to move to petitioning stage; Some backstory on how difficult it was to get the signatures in

South Dakota: Huron recall attempt falls short

Attempt to recall Huron's mayor falls short. Though the backers handed in enough signatures, 344 were declared invalid, pushing them 139 below the limit.

Oregon: Attempt to recall Cornelius Mayor, City Councilmembers begins

Petition gathering stage starts; Issue is of removal of tax/attempted firing of former City Manager; Elected officials claim proponent disgruntled by recent loss.

Massachusetts: Editorial Against Chelmsford recalls

Boston Globe comes out strongly against Chelmsford recalls on August 2, claiming it is a private grudge

Australia: More thoughts on adopting the recall


Idaho: Klamath Falls recall petition gathering starts

Recall petitions out on two Klamath Falls City Council members, need 3,474 signatures to get on the ballot

Wisconsin: Fund raising and cash on hand numbers out

Republicans lead in fund-raising, Democrats lead in cash-on hand

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Wisconsin: Rep. Nygren will not run as write-in

One of the stranger stories in Wisconsin is that an Aseembly Rep running for one of the Democratic state Senate seats failed to make the ballot because of an insufficient number of signatures. Nygren has now announced that he will not run as a write-in. This should mean that at least one of the nine recalls will not involve a primary.