Friday, December 1, 2023

California: Calexico Mayor and Council member recalls make the ballot

The recall of Calexico Mayor Raul Urena and Council member Gilberto Manzanarez has made the ballot. 

Petitioners handed in 5157 for Urena, of which 4288 were validated (869 disqualified) and 5105 for Manzaanarez, of which 4243 were validated (862 disqualified). They needed 4196.

The issue is a claim of poor leadership, though stories note that Urena is Calexico's first transgendered mayor as the factor.

The recall may get to the ballot for the May 5 primary. 

Florida: Petitions taken out against Mexico Beach Mayor

Petitions have been taken out against Mexico Beach Mayor Michele Miller 

Miller has sued the City Council members for hiring the City Administrator and making the sole recordkeeper. 

Oklahoma: Enid Commissioner recall makes the ballot

The recall of Enid City Commissioner Judd Blevins has made the ballot. Petitioners handed in almost 350 signatures and needed a little over 200. I'm not sure of the exact numbers. 

The recall is over claims that he was the state coordinator for a white nationalist group (Identity Evropa, which was renamed American Identity Movement). Blevins apologized at a November 21 meeting where the council tabled a censure motion and disavowed any racist group. 

The Election is supposed to be scheduled for February 14, 2024. 

Wednesday, November 29, 2023

Oregon: Brookings officials who lost recall votes try endrun around results by resigning and having allies appointed in their stead

Interesting attempt to end run the recall. Three Brookings officials, Mayor Ron Hedenskog and city councilmembers Ed Schreiber and Michelle Morosky, lost their recall votes, but now both Morosky and Hedenskog resigned prior to certification, which allowed the council to choose a new member. Many places bar this, by requiring a resignation in a set time (five days, usually), following the recall being scheduled for the ballot.

The recall was over the decision to reinstate the City Manager following her arrest for shoplifting. 

According to The Recall of Public Officers by Bird & Ryan, Councilmembers in Watts, California in 1925, where they resigned once the recall was filed and then effectively were able to chose their own replacements. 

Louisiana: Signatures verified against Elton Mayor

The recall effort against Elton Mayor Kesia Skinner-Lemoine has move forward, with the governor now in position to schedule the election. Petitioners handed in 252 signatures and got 249 valids. They needed 245 valids. The issue is a claim of election irregularities and fraud.

This recall effort is following the failure of the first attempt at recalling , which collapsed in spectacular fashion, with only one of the 322 signatures handed in approved. For some reason, the stories listed 276 signatures required at that time.

Petitioners needed 276 (40%). petitioners are giving it another chance and have taken out petitions. 

California: ACLU of Northern California comes out against Alameda County District Attorney recall effort

Here -- note they call the recall "undemocratic"

California: Alameda County Board of Supervisors passes state recall law; issue will now be voted on at the next election

By a 3-2 vote, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors has approved the attempt to change the recall laws and conform them with the state's laws for general cities and counties. However, this will result in a vote on the March ballot, and it is already gaining significant opposition. 
You have my take here, so the fun is now set to begin.

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

Michigan: Ottawa County Commissioner recall set for May 7

The recall against Ottawa County Commissioner Lucy Ebel will be on the ballot on May 7. Enough signatures have been validated. Petitioners turned in over 3000 signatures and had 2653 validated, though that was lowered to 2575. They need 2481.

The recall was over her vote to reverse the hiring of the county health officer. Ebel is a member of Ottawa Impact, a fundamentalist Christian group who have elected a number of officials in the county. Some of Ebel's supporters claim the recall is because of her Latino heritage, though the recall proponents deny this charge.

Petitions are still out against Ottawa County Commissioner Doug Zylstra (D) and Roger Bergman (R). The petitions has been pushed by the Ottawa Impact over the two commissioners opposition to a bill that claiming to protect "childhood innocence."  Zylstra noted that the bill lacked any specificity for staffers to follow. Petitioners would need 2620 signatures for Zylstra and 3717 for Bergman.

Massachusetts: Cambridge Charter Review Committee debating adding in recall provision, tied with increasing mayoral term

Cambridge's Charter Review Committee is considering adopting a recall provision, which they are tying to the decision to propose increasing the mayoral term to four years. They are debating how many signatures would be needed.

Michigan: Petitions taken out against three Ypsilanti officials

Petitions have been taken out against Ypsilanti Mayor Nicole Brown and Council members Jennifer Symanns and Desirae Simmons. over a vote to purchase a $3.7M building, A former Councilmember was the broker of the deal and may make $100,000 on it. 

Petitioners need about 2800 signatures. 

Monday, November 27, 2023

California: Alameda County Supervisors Playing with Fire with Recall Election Changes.

As our op-ed in today’s Recorder charges, Alameda County is playing with fire in the way it is attempting to change the county’s recall law.

The wholesale adoption of the controversial 2022 law used by the state for general cities and counties may be warranted (matter for another debate), but the fact that this is taking place at the exact moment that the county is facing what may be the most significant recall effort in its history against District Attorney Pamela Price means that voters will be suspicious of the intent behind these changes. This is a significant problem, as we discuss in this op-ed, as the voters are very happy to shoot down ballot measures. In this case, by not choosing a limited method to handle the recall changes, the county may be facing chaos when signatures are handed in. The county has also not been clear on how what will happen with the existing recall campaign (possibly the first real attempt since 1915), as the Warren Zevon rule for recalls means it is likely to be enmeshed in costs and increasingly complex litigation.

The op-ed deals with a few of the standout reasons for concern. But I want to take a dive through the memo prepared by the County Counsel and also touch on the FAQ page that they have apparently posted. The memo seems to hide the ball on what is being proposed, which may make a ballot measure failure that much more likely. Let’s jump right in:

Appointive (or Appointed) Officers: Why is this a focus?

The first thing to notice is the focus on “appointive” or “appointed” officers. The memo italicizes the word and it is the first actual part of the law mentioned. They are correct that it is unusual to have the recall law applied to non-elected appointive or appointed officers (think police chief, City Manager, Health Director). But that is only part of the story, and the reality makes the focus on appointive officers a real red-flag.

First, some history -- the first place to adopt a recall law against appointive officers was Alameda – the City, not the County – in 1906 (according to Bird & Ryan’s seminal The Recall of Public Officers, who called this a “revolutionary innovation.”). Other jurisdictions have the same type of provision on the books, including San Francisco. But it is not a regular feature of the recall. Among the 20 statewide recall laws, only Montana allows appointed official recalls, though it has strong limits.

Looking at the 1911 legislative discussion, it makes sense that California may not have wanted to wade into the fight. The big debate at the time was over judges, so it could be that they did not want to expand the fight to another controversial area. I don’t remember seeing it discussed during the legislative debates.

From a theoretical point of view, recalls against appointed officials may be unpopular because the targeted position is not supposed to be subject to public approval (hence no direct vote) and, more importantly, there is a simpler method of removal, namely that the appointing body has the removal power. Unlike Impeachment, which has arguably failed as a deterrent (at least on the national level), removal is simple and happens with regularity. So a recall could be either overkill or a step too far for the process.

But the question here is why should Alameda County focus on this provision now? Bird & Ryan note a City Manager recall in Long Beach in 1922. I don’t know of any other ones anywhere. I don’t even know of a significant threat of one. And not just in California – anywhere in the US. So highlighting this point of the law that has never been used in Alameda and rarely used anywhere else seems like a strange subject to focus on when vastly more important questions are at hand.

Unconstitutional Provisions:

The memo then mentions two unconstitutional provisions of the Alameda Charter. Section 62 holds that petition circulators have to be registered voters in the County. It also holds that voters have to vote for the recall in order to cast a ballot in a replacement race. As noted, these are both inoperative due to court rulings. It may be nice to clean up these provisions, but it is certainly not necessary. Unlike many other lawsuits, anyone suing to enforce these provisions will find themselves laughed out of court.  

Missing Procedures:

The next section focuses on the pre-circulation procedures. The memo notes that procedures are important for transparency purposes. “They provide notice to the public, identify the target of the recall, allow the target to answer the petition, give the elections official the opportunity to vet the form of the petition and allow the public time to challenge the form and content of the petition.”

Pre-circulation procedures were not used in the first recall laws in cities throughout the state (Bird & Ryan call this “the delightful informality with which anyone could start circulating a petition”) and were added in first by Oakland. Berkeley had previously put forth the innovation that petitioners should state, in 200 words, a reason for the recall Since then, these procedures have become standard in practically all recalls in the US, though frankly it is hard to say how much they are really needed. A good part of the procedures are hoop-jumping that delays, adds costs and frustrates the petition gatherers (Michigan is a prime example). As you’ll see below, some of these provisions feel clearly designed for barrier-creating purposes. For example, is spending money to publish notice in a newspaper needed these days?

The reality is that publication, alerting the officials and other parts of the law are an added expense. It certainly seems that the officials find out about the recall effort, and as the Price recall effort shows, the de facto notification process seems to have been very successful. Having these pre-signature gathering procedures may solve some problems for petitioners, who are prevented from going out with deficient petitions. But notification is not a huge problem when you are collecting the massive amount of signatures needed for a county-level recall. Any change in the notification process, especially after the petitioners have gathered over 70,000 (unverified) signatures can wait until a less fraught time.

Unfeasibility – the heart of the matter starts on page 4:

It is only on page four that we get to the heart of the matter, and why the law needs to changed, unfeasibility. Our op-ed deals with this at length, but the key parts are:

1)    There is no provision explaining how to replace the official if they are removed. California voters probably expect the one-day/two-step process that they used in the recall of Governor Newsom. This means, voters get to choose the replacement candidate. But, as mentioned, this provision would be eliminated. Instead, Voters will quickly discover that the state law for general officials uses an automatic replacement or by law model, which most likely will result in an appointed replacement rather than an elected one (admittedly, most states use this model). Not only is this not explained in the memo, the FAQ (designed specifically to clear up issues), avoids the issue and simply says that we should refer to Sections 8, 20 and 33 rather explain what those sections do (get rid of replacement elections).  

For a little history here, while the first recall laws just used a new election (like the type used in Wisconsin or the UK), Bird & Ryan claim that in 1910 no-so-sweet Modesto seems to have adopted the more familiar one-day/two-step process that California voters are familiar with. There was also differing views on whether the removed official should be allowed to run in the replacement race.

In the end, voters may not be happy to discover that they will not be able to select a replacement – this massive change alone is likely to jeopardize the ballot measure.

2)    The signature verification process must be completed in 10 days rather than the 30 days that the state allots. Additionally, there is no allowance to use the statistical sampling model (described here – note that it is not allowed for state level recalls, simply for local ones. This discrepancy was changed in 2017 to make state recall efforts take longer). This short time frame may turn out to be a significant problem and once again the Supervisors really need to deal with it.

3)    Change the time frame to actually hold the election. The county requires an election be held within 35-40 days. The state gives a more leisurely 88 day to 180 day limit. The extra days potentially allows the recall to be tied into a general election (in this case, possibly the presidential election) in order to save money. Legitimate issue here, though the elongated time frame may give voters a good complaint about overlong delays.

Two practical points to consider on the longer term political ramifications of these changes, both of which may be somewhat surprising.

1)    Using an automatic replacement model may seem to be a way to cut down on recalls, as the personal benefit of replacing the official may not be there. However, this does not appear to be the case. Oregon uses the automatic replacement model and it has the same number of recalls as California.

2)    The focus on tying a recall to a general election may seem like a good way to improve the odds for an elected official. This was definitely the motivation in 2017, when they made some changes in the law to try and unsuccessfully avoid a recall of State Senator Josh Newman. Theoretically, it makes sense. You would think (as I did) that the official should be more likely to lose a recall on a special election date – when the most motivated voters will come out – rather than a general election date. However, this is incorrect. My research shows that voters are slightly more likely to kick out an official on a general electionday than on a special election

Key provisions not discussed in the Memo:

The memo leaves out provisions of note, one of which will likely further inflame voters against the ballot measure.

1)    Signature Removal or Signature Strikes Laws: Adopting the state law would grant voters a signature strike law, allowing petition signers to remove their names from the petition in a counter-effort by the targeted official. Nothing wrong with this one, and, unlike the state-level recalls it doesn’t have a supplement slowing down period. This was adopted in 2017 and we have already seen it work once, so something to keep in mind for the Price and other recalls.

2)    Funding Disclosure: The state has a very detailed and quite onerous funder disclosure requirement. Petitioners need to be show signers a document that explains the big financial backers of the petition, and this has to be written in 14 point font with a 16 point headline (note that 8 and 11 point fonts are listed for other provisions). Again, this really feels like a way to discourage signatures (in some states, they have this printed on the petition, in what feels like a push to make it so that fewer signatures are able to be signed on each page of the petition).

3)    Supplemental Signature Gathering Period: The new law would remove the 10 day period to gather additional signatures if the signatures are handed in, but don’t meet the bar. California doesn’t have this law, though other places have it (or have a cure period, where they can repair signatures that were invalidated).

4)    Signature threshold changes: Most important point is right here, and left off the memo, though discussed in the FAQ. The county calculates how many signatures are needed to get on the ballot. The current law requires signatures of 15% of voter turnout for the position in the last election. The state law will change that to 10% of registered voters. As a practical matter this will raise the signature totals. For a putative Price recall, it would go up from 73k to 93K – though presumably the signatures would be handed in before then. But the change would almost certainly result in a lawsuit.

There’s no problem with increasing the signature requirement. 15% of turnout is lower than most places that have recall laws (25% of turnout is one that we often see used), so that should not in and of itself be controversial. The possible problem may be that the 10% number is tied to registered voters. A little awkwardness here – for years, I have said that using registered voters, rather than voter turnout, is the right way to go. This way, the recall is not tied to a variable number such as a low turnout in the last election. Theoretically sound. But in practice, I was wrong. In both the Los Angeles D.A. recall and in the New Orleans MayoralRecall we saw complaints and lawsuits over the rolls – specifically that there are too many voters who died or moved still listed as registered voters. As a result, this artificially increases the number of signatures needed (leading to lawsuits). California (unlike Louisiana) generally has a good system to check rolls, but I think in the interest of avoiding trouble, it is probably better to use the turnout in the last election numbers.

But the big problem here is that the memo does not explain how the changed signature threshold and other provisions will impact the Price recall. The FAQ is frankly unclear on this as well, suggesting that that it may impact and completely overturn the Price recall effort, which has already spent a significant effort collecting signatures under the existing law. In addition to guaranteeing further litigation, this change during an active recall is a major problem for petitioners who have already collected signatures under the existing law.

As we note in the op-ed, it is imperative to update the recall law in the face of a prominent recall. But this needs to be done with care, and should not be seen as a moment to try and avoid future recall efforts (something that the change will probably not impact anyway). By wholesale adopting the state’s local recall law, with the two potential poison pills of stripping voters of the power to replace candidates in an election and at the same time increasing the signature numbers, voters may well reject this ballot measure and chaos will ensue. The Supervisors should just deal with the absolutely necessary provisions in the least controversial manner (perhaps selective incorporation) and then revisit wide-spread changes at a later date when an active recall is not taking place.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

Texas: Recall threatened against San Angelo Mayor

San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter has been threatened with a recall effort over claims that she is taking over power from the City Manager. 

The potential recall effort was announced by former San Angelo Development Corporation Vice Chair John Bariou (who, with his beard and red short, was noted as looking like Santa Claus). Petitioners need about 1803 signatures to get to the ballot.  

Oregon: Signatures submitted in the recall of John Day Mayor

139 Signatures have been handed in for the recall of John Day Mayor Heather Rookstool, which is "nearly 50" more than needed (not sure how many exactly are needed.

Rookstool is facing the recall over claims that she falsified documents violated public meeting laws and interfered with public records requests as part of an attempt to take over city manager duties. Petitioners have also filed a criminal complaint. City employees seem to be leading the recall effort.

Michigan: Petitions filed against four Onaway Board of Education members

Petitions have been filed against Onaway Board of Education President James Rieger, VP Erin Chaskey, Secretary Lorrie Kowalski and Trustee John Palmer. The recall seems to be over complaints about negative comments during board meetings. Hopefully, we'll find out more soon.

Canada: Medicine Hat Mayor facing petitions

Medicine Hat Mayor Linnsie Clark is facing a recall effort over calls to change the utility rates. Petitioners need about 25,000 signatures by early December. 

Canada: British Columbia's Minister of Education facing petitions

Petitions have been taken out against British Columbia Minister of Education, MLA Rachna Singh (NDP), with the petition period running till January 29. 

The petition is over Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity (SOGI) teaching plans in public schools. Petitioners need 11,811.  The recall has an expense limit of $31,633.94.

30 recall petitions have been launched since 1995, five of which have led to signatures being turned in, but none met the threshold to make the ballot. MLA Paul Reitsma resigned in the face of a recall in 1999.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Oregon: Cottage Grove recall fails

The recall effort against Cottage Grove City Council Mike Fleck failed, as petitioners handed in 662 signatures and needed 654. Only 463 signatures were validated. The recall was over the city's homeless policy and a lack of responsiveness. 

No signatures were turned in against City Councilors John Stinnett and Chalice Savage.

I appeared with petitioner Michael Borke on a City Club of Eugene program on KLCC that should be available tomorrow. Well worth listening to for Michael's on-the-ground thoughts on why he launched a recall and the pros and cons of the effort.

Saturday, November 18, 2023

California: Signatures handed in against Calexico Mayor and Council member

Signatures have been handed in against Calexico Mayor Raul Urena and Council member Gilberto Manzanarez. Petitioners claim they handed in 5000 signatures and they need 4200. The issue is a claim of poor leadership, though stories note that Urena is Calexico's first transgendered mayor as the factor.

Louisiana: Signatures handed in for second attempt against Elton Mayor

Petitioners have handed in 252 signatures for the recall of Elton Mayor Elton Mayor Kesia Skinner-Lemoine, though one of the signers has since died. Petitioners need 245 valids. The issue is a claim of election irregularities and fraud.

This recall effort is following the failure of the first attempt at recalling , which collapsed in spectacular fashion, with only one of the 322 signatures handed in approved. For some reason, the stories listed 276 signatures required at that time.

Petitioners needed 276 (40%). petitioners are giving it another chance and have taken out petitions.