Tuesday, December 29, 2015

108 officials face recalls in the US in 2015; 65 ousted in a vote; 15 resign; At least 435 recall attempts

Once again, we have the Recall Elections Blog's annual end of the year stats, featuring my article in The Week, which provides some further thoughts on why the recalls are taking place. The issues for recalls were all over the map in 2015: gun control; marijuana; police shootings; stadium contracts; education, vaccinations, firing of superintendents and football coaches; keeping a chicken coop and a DUI. However, there were no recalls of state legislators or state level officials (though the Governor of Oregon resigns with a recall threat looming).

Over here, we get to discuss the stats (my numbers are different than Ballotpedia, which I'll discuss below). One caveat -- some of the numbers may change! Sometimes, I find out results weeks and months later.

In 2015, we had 108 recalls get to the ballot or end in a resignation. Of those, removal once again proved very successful. 65 ousted in the vote, and 15 resigned. Only 28 survived a recall vote. I counted at least 434 attempted recalls, so once again, the vast majority of recall attempts do not result in signatures being handed in. I count only 22 recall attempts where petitioners handed in signatures and failed to get on the ballot (because some of the signatures were found invalid). Most recall attempts are abandoned. 

  • 16 states had recall elections take place and 2 states (Georgia and Missouri) saw an official resign in the face of recalls (in the case of Missouri, the recall was actually scheduled).
  • The big recall states were California (20), Michigan (19) and Arizona (14). It suggests that Michigan voters have begun to incorporate the changed recall laws into the behavior.
  • School Boards were big this year. Jefferson County School Board in Colorado was easily the most widely followed recalls of the year, but in total 28 school board members faced recalls in 16 different school boards.
  • 9 mayors, 1 mayor pro tem and one vice mayor faced a recall vote.
  • Five local jurisdictions adopted recall laws, and many others discussed them. There's no place that voters removed or weakened recall laws
  • Recalls have popular overseas, with the beautifully named "Appendectomy Project" trying to push the recall in Taiwan.
  • I have not included recalls in Native American territory (there are a few), nor do I include HOAs or Senior Living Communities. 
This year saw a drop-off in recalls from 2014 (which, I never actually wrote up), we had 126 recalls, with 61 removals, 20 resignations and 45 survivals. However, this year's result closely tracks 2013 (the last off-year election), when we had 107 recalls. 2012 we had 168, and 2011 we had 151.

Why the drop off? It's not clear though I would like to point out my comments on the subject in 2013. I think the off-year matters (if nothing else, than because in many jurisdictions, a recall cannot take place until the official is in office for a year).

As I mentioned, the good folks at Ballotpedia put out their year-ender on recalls, and the numbers are different -- they had 40 recall removals, 21 survivals and 7 resignations and 275 attempts. Why the difference? It's not fully clear. The resignations may be an issue of when do you count a resignation in the face of a recall. The attempts are very rough -- it is never clear if someone took out petitions, so that number does have to be taken with a grain of salt.

One thing we can say is that their very user-friendly system allows me to easily search all the recalls they have listed. I'm in discussion with the Ballotpedia team and hopefully we'll figure it all out for next year.

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