Wednesday, August 31, 2011

California: Four of five Point Arena Council members removed in recall

Weird recall from Point Arena, one of the newly elected council members resigned earlier this year.

Texas: Appellate Court orders Jasper City Council recalls

Follow-up from this story, Texas Appellate Court has ordered the Town of Jasper to hold recall votes for three city council members. The town has been delaying the matter. Issue is once again a police chief.

Wisconsin: Fond Du Lac County reports $90,000 cost for recalls

Officials also note that not every jurisdiction in the county had an election

Arizona: High Court considers transfer of Pearce recall case


Arizona: Quartzsite recalls mayor

New Mayor elected in recall, thanks to the absentee ballot vote. Quite a bit more on the story here

Monday, August 29, 2011

More on the Gov/LT Gov discussion, this time in Wisconsin

Wisconsin is now looking into the question of whether a gubernatorial recall would take out both a Governor and a same-ticket elected Lieutenant Governor at the same time. Here are my thoughts on that from NJ.

Michigan: Money spent in State legislator recall focused in Lansing, not district

95% of the money spent on the recall so far has been for Lansing area consultants. However, major caveat, that number is only 13,504.

Arizona: Interview with chief opponent of Russell Pearce

Jerry Lewis speaks to the Arizona Republic.

Wisconsin: Four jump into the race for recall of Ashland Mayor


Colorado: anti-recall campaign focuses on cost

Contrasting claims on the cost of proposed recalls in Montrose, Colorado

Election-Mad America

The Economist and Winnipeg Free-Press discuss the pros and cons of our system

California: Editorial against recall of Feather River Recreation and Parks Department

The Chico Enterprise-Record comes out against proposed recall of Recreation and Parks Department leadership. A failed candidate for Mayor of Oroville is leading the recall effort.

Oregon: Recalls going to ballot against three Cornelius officials

Follow up from this story, the recall against the Mayor and two councilors in Cornelius, Oregon has been certified. The prime backer of the recall was a city councilor who lost in November, bringing up our re-run question.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Texas: Article claims Galveston recall fails

The article notes that a disagreement between state and local law will kill the Galveston Mayor. Galveston law claims that a recall can be launched at any time, but the state law mandates that the recall be held at the next scheduled election date (like in Arizona's State Senate recall). I may look into this later.

Texas: Appeals Court could mandate Jasper City Council recalls

Followed up to an earlier story, where the City Council failed to set a date for a recall. The Court of Appeals will now weigh in.

Wisconsin: Sheboygan Council debating removal or recall of Mayor

Mayor Bob Ryan, who had a nationally covered "drinking incident" is facing either a recall or removal by the city council. The recall proponent claims the recall will be a cheaper option.

Nebraska: Recalls against Three Hitchcock County School Board Members to go to the ballot

Petitioners needed 175 signatures, and have gotten it.

Maine: Monmouth debates revising recall laws

Town has a two-thirds victory margin requirement for a recall to be successful. They are considering doing away with that requirement, but one selectmen would like to add a 10% minimum turnout requirement.

Florida: Haines City first step of petitioning process to be cleared

Haines City, which has an interesting two step recall process (hand in 10% of voters signatures, than 15%), is about to be completed in this recall of two council members. According to the article, they can go back to the same 10% voters to get them to sign for the second round.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Michigan: Plainwell school board member recall rejected by Election Commission

Recall language against two school board members rejected as not clear.

Colorado: County Clerk orders Ellicott School Board recall to proceed

Two school board members facing recalls. Two other board members were targeted with recalls last year (both recalls were disqualified, and those two members are on the ballot this year). The recall will be held on the same day as the November election.

Michigan: More mystery surrounds recall effort against state Rep.

Earlier this month, there was a report that a car accident might have stopped the handing of petitions to force a recall of Michigan State Representative Nancy Jenkins in November. The story is actually getting weirded.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Arizona: Pearce recall brings up campaign finance disclosure issues

Once again, the recall brings up campaign finance issues, as voters won't be able to find out about fundraising or spending until a few days before the election.

Arizona: Both sides ask for quick Supreme Court review in Pearce recall

Both sides are asking to bypass the Court of Appeals and go directly to the Supreme Court. The reason for the expedited review is that Arizona requires the recall to be held on the same date as a regularly scheduled election (which would be November 8).

Monday, August 22, 2011

Wisconsin: Ashland Mayor recall certified

It will be held on October 4th. One of the possible opponents the candidate who lost to the mayor last time. Here's an earlier piece on re-runs.

Wisconsin: Recall campaign started against Sheboygan Mayor after alleged drinking binge

A City Alderman is looking to launch a recall against Sheboygan's mayor. The Mayor has gained some notoriety for drinking problems. The recall may be the less expensive option.

Nevada: Difference of opinion on possible success of Las Vegas Council recall


Louisiana: Deadline nears for Baton Rouge City Council recall


New Jersey Democrats seriously considered recalling Gov. Christie

The New Jersey Democrats apparently seriously considered trying to recall Christie. I would have thought the signature requirement (the would need 1.3 million valid signatures) would be almost an absolute barrier to all but the most non-partisan recalls. The state does have an exceptionally lenient time period to gather signatures (270 days -- EDIT -- it is 320 days), but still very hard to do.

According to the article, one of the big hurdles for Democrats was the question of whether the recall would also affect the Lieutenant Governor. The Democrats assumed that the recall would remove the LG (a Republican who ran on the same ticket as Christie). Wisconsin faces the same question. (it was not an issue in California, because the LG was elected separately). However, I don't see the legal argument that the recall would remove LGs.

Why would the recall operate differently than an impeachment? The recall laws talk about recalling "any Elected Official in the state," not elected officials plural. Why would the courts assume that a recall hits both officials, simply because of they were elected on the same ticket? Are there other examples of the recall operating this way (maybe there are mayoral tickets in some states)? Furthermore, what happens if you recall a same ticket Lieutenant Governor (a number of them are extremely unpopular) -- by this logic, the governor would also be kicked out.

That being said, New Jersey courts have been willing to go out on a limb in recall cases, (a New Jersey Appellate Court ruled that state voters could recall Senator Robert Menendez, a decision that was overturned by the NJ Supreme Court with a 4-2 vote. I do not know of another court that allowed a federal level recall). So who knows how they would rule.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Georgia: Hall County Commissioner recall application verified

Another variation, where the petitioners need to get signatures on the application form. Still needs 30% of voters to sign petition. Recall is about firing public officials.

Nevada: Las Vegas City Councilman spokesman says recall will fail

Following up on the petitions for the recall of Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross, Ross' spokesman says that the recall will fail to get on the ballot, as the Councilman has enough people reneging on their signature.

Oklahoma: Nowata City Council recall petitions deemed invalid

Petitioners had gotten enough signatures, but the City is claiming that the petitions are deficient for other reasons.

Wisconsin: Campaign spending for the recall tops $40 mil

Article looks at the Olson v. Clark race, which had a $6.5 million spending. All but about $340,000 was by outside groups. More here.

Tennessee: Recall attempt against Chattanooga mayor still being fought over in court

A District Court had ruled that to place a mayoral recall on the ballot, petitioners had to gather enough signatures to meet he state's threshold, not a lower one in Chattanooga's city charter. Appellate Court is hearing arguments on the issue.

Wisconsin: Ashland Mayor recall expected to be certified

Ashland Mayor Bill Whalen is expected to face a recall on October 4, if there is no primary challenge

Friday, August 19, 2011

Wisconsin: Feingold declines

Russell Feingold declines to run for US Senate seat or for Governor in case of a recall. Feingold had the best early numbers against Walker.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Recalls and Campaign Reimbursements -- Arizona may have to pay Pearce's campaign expenses

Another twist in the recall Arizona Senate Majority Leader Russell Pearce. Arizona has a state law that allows elected officials to seek reimbursements for the recall campaign expenses. The law is a bit unclear. It appears that it covers the expense regardless of whether Pearce would win or lose. And according to the State Elections Director, it would require a vote of the legislature.

This may seem like an unusual provision, but it is certainly not rare. California has a similar law, as does Colorado. As noted in The Recall by Joseph Zimmerman, Colorado's Attorney General did rule that an official is not entitled to reimbursement if an election is not held. Both states have only a "pay if you win" provision. According to Bird & Ryan's The Recall of Public Officials, at one point San Francisco had such a law and then repealed it in 1916.

We have two noteworthy examples of this provision in California:
During the Gray Davis recall, there was a debate on whether Davis could eventually seek reimbursement if he won -- a price tag that might hit $20 million. There is some question of what qualifies as a reimbursable expenses -- specifically, must it be personal expenses that came directly out of Davis' pocket or could it just be expenses paid for by campaign funds.

After California Senator Mike Machado triumphed in his end of the recall battles of 1995 (Machado, a Democrat, was being recalled because he voted for Democrat Willie Brown for Speaker of the Assembly), Machado sought reimbursement of $89,000 in expenses. Machado's reimbursement request was denied by the State Board of Control and he did not pursue it further.

Arizona: Court transfers Pearce appeal

Arizona Supreme Court transfers Pearce appeal to lower court

Nevada: Las Vegas City Councilman under the gun

Recall proponents claim they have enough signatures to recall Las Vegas City Councilman. They have 1,139 signatures, 55 over the required amount. The focal point seems to be a zoning decision that resulted in the closing of a car dealership (whose owner is the biggest recall backer). The last Las Vegas Council recall was in 2005.

Florida: Police and Firefighter Unions mull recall of Cape Coral Mayor

Only need 5% (4,500) of the registered voter signatures.

Nebraska: Chadron Mayor and Vice Mayoral Recall set

The recall of Chadron, Nebraska mayor and vice mayor will take place on October 4.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Parallax View -- Perspectives and some guesses on Wisconsin

In America, with our single-district, first-past-the-post system, we usually have clear winners and losers on election night. But the recall, with its tendency to disrupt normal actions of government, is able to knock us off our equilibrium here. Outside of the two Senators who lost their seats last Tuesday, how you view the results depends on your point of view. Last week, the Democrats took two seats, but since they didn't capture the state house, they didn't feel like winners. Today, in what felt like an anticlimactic, Battle of New Orleans-type of victory, the Democrats regained some momentum.

So let's ask:

Did the Democrats go 5 of 9 in the recall races? Did they just miss winning the state Senate by a few thousand votes in the face of a conservative money avalanche? Did they prevent further legislative action by the Republican-dominated government, gumming up the works for a few months, switching the focus and by capturing two seat, give themselves the ability to stop future legislative action? Did voters give them a green light for the recall of Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (plus recalls of other state legislators) next year?

Or did the Republicans go 4 for 6, holding on to the Senate in several difficult districts in the face of a union-led deluge? Should we dismiss the three Democratic recall attempts as a successful diversionary tactical maneuver? Does the Democrats failure to overwhelmingly sweep back the Senate show that voters will reject the Walker recall, as some polls are now showing?

Or was it just a tie, something that turned off independents and felt like a waste of money? 

Even the question of whether the turnout was super high or slightly unimpressive is open for debate (more on that tomorrow).

What does this mean for the recall? Will Wisconsin serve as a cautionary tale or is it the new model? My guess is more the later, and yes, we will see more recalls in the future. Will Walker face a recall next year? I think this might be made at a higher pay grade, due to the potential disruptive effect on the presidential race. The result may be that the recall attempt will be shelved.

So who are the obvious winners? Here are two: Public Policy Polling and all the consultants who cashed in during their usual down market year. 

More analysis in the days ahead, but for the recall, onward to Arizona and Michigan!

Holperin numbers slow in coming

He won, but analysis will have to wait as the numbers aren't exactly coming to quickly. Still at 79%. Wirch got 58% of the vote, which may be a blowout (depending on your opinion on the subject, I like 60% but 58 is good).

Final results -- Democrats +two on the recall

Holperin Wins -- Democrats hold serve

Looks like both Democrats won tonight. Holperin is now the first man to survive two recalls on the state legislative level.

Turnout in the Wirch race -- not so high?

Just looking at the totals (with 99% reporting) and this analysis by Craig Gilbert and it looks like the turnout in the Wirch will be about 31% or so. That would be close to 9% lower than the 2010 November Gubentorial vote.

AP calling it for Wirch

According to the Fix, the AP is calling it for Wirch.

Wirch takes the lead

Huge batch of votes came in (or were finally reported) in the Wirch v. Steitz 22nd District race. Turn the vote from Steitz in the lead to a 55% for Wirch (the incumbent). The other district is holding steady, with Holperin at 54% with 44% reporting.
I actually don't see too many liveblogs -- TalkingPoints Memo does not seem to have one. Daily Kos does have a thread, so that could be one to follow (both of those sites are from a liberal perspective). I don't see a Republican one, though

Ward runs out of ballots

Here. Check out the title of "voter protection director."

And we're off...

Early results are in and they mean... who knows? You can follow it at the Journal Sentinel, the Washington Post and Talking Points Memo, among other places. So far, Holperin is leading by 8% with under 20% reporting. The challenger Steitz is up in the second race, but again, quite early.

Heavy turnout reported in Holperin district

Reports that there is heavy turnout in the Holperin district. The Washington Post mentions that this favors the challenger. Previous recalls don't necessarily prove the point either way. Miami-Dade was thought low, though I disagree. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's All Politics Blog notes that turnout is heavy in an important Republican district.

Arizona: Court decision on Pearce

Courtesy of the Election Law Blog, here's the written decision in the Pearce case

New Poll shows voters moving against the Walker recall

A new poll has the numbers on a Walker recall turned around -- 50-47 against a recall. My thoughts on the dangers of the recall are here.

The Recall Returns to Town: A Primer on the Two Democratic Recalls in Wisconsin

After the seemingly inconclusive results of last week's six races, where both sides got to claim victory and at the same time feel bad for themselves, the two remaining Democratic recalls feel anticlimactic. The Senate cannot flip based on the results, and only one of the races appears to be competitive (though the polls are all over the place).

However, there are a few new facts to keep in mind (here's a link to the previous primer):

Will Holperin prove to be the ultimate recall survivor?
Democratic State Senator Jim Holperin is the first state legislator to face two recalls during his state legislative career. (Others have faced multiple recalls, but never as a state legislator). Holperin might be the first two-time winner, but here is (as far as I know) the only two-time recall loser.

Wisconsin voters, come out and play
Last week's recalls saw very high turnout for a recall. However, others (like me) were somewhat disappointed by the turnout. It's all a matter of expectation. Generally, recalls have lower voter turnout than a regular election (in 1994, the three California Assembly recalls saw 20 to 25% turnout, with similar numbers in Michigan in 1983).

By that standard, last week was amazing. However, the Gray Davis recall saw a much higher turnout than his 2002 reelection race. Since the Wisconsin races garnered so much attention and had so much money poured into it, there was a thought that it would have very high turnout. In all but one of the seats, turnout did not exceed the 2010 vote for Governor in the district (the numbers are not directly comparable, as all of these seats were last up in the presidential year of 2008. The recall turnout was nowhere near the 2008 one). Mitigating that fact is that as a rule, gubernatorial votes are higher than a state Senate vote (as some voters invariably don't cast votes on the down ballot elections).

Of the six races, turnout was by far the lowest in the least competitive seat (34%). However, turnout in the second closest race (the Luther Olsen seat), was the second lowest (39%). So, a better pull by the Democrats perhaps could have won the day.

The big question for Tuesday is whether anticlimactic nature of the vote will keep voters at home. We shall see.

Will the Republicans regret their own goal against Senator David Hansen?
The hurdle facing most recalls is simply getting on the ballot. The Republicans took this to a new level in the ninth recall in Wisconsin, against Senator David Hansen. Their preferred candidate Representative John Nygren, failed to turn in enough signatures. Hansen triumphed easily. If the Republicans had been able to win the Hansen seat, they certainly could view the results as a success. At the least, it would have forced the Democrats to put in more time and efforts on defense.

Blowouts are the norm in a recall vote. In the past, the winner of recall elections generally triumph with over 60% of the vote. Hansen got over 66% of the vote. Of the other races, three were over 55% and two were very tight (51-49, 52-48). Here are a couple of examples of some recall election barnburners.

Will a Walker recall be dynamite for the Democrats?
The Democrats and the Labor Unions are still talking up the Governor Walker recall. If the Republicans win both or even one seat, that talk may be tampered down. But if the Democrats hold serve, we could be hearing more about the Walker recall in coming months. 

However, as this post and Roll Call article note, there are real dangers for the Democrats in trying to recall Walker. The practical hurdles themselves are large. Wisconsin has a strict signature gathering requirement. But the political ones are almost as great. If the recall does not fall out on Election Day 2012, the Democrats could be blamed for wasting government resources. Since Wisconsin is considered a swing state, the Democrats do not want to be faced with blame on wasting taxpayer money come November. A failed recall could be a politically dangerous proposition.

On the national level, we will be seeing a recall against Arizona Senate Majority Leader Russell Pearce, as well as continued threats in Michigan. South Carolina is considering adopting the recall (as is NSW in Australia). Will the impact of Wisconsin have an effect on the adoptions?

In response to the recalls, one Wisconsin state Representative is proposing radically revamping the recall law, and making it a "judicial process" -- meaning that recalls cannot be about political disagreements, but rather must be based on malfeasance, corruption, etc. 

After California Senator E.E. Grant was recalled in 1914, they looked into changing the laws. Nothing happened there either.

Will Interest Groups be chastised or emboldened by the results of the Recall?
Another way of putting it is -- Do voters care if the recall is perceived to be instigated by a political party or by an interest group? Check here for some thought.

Did Wisconsin ruin a great stat?
I've long stated that once recalls get on the ballot, they are frequently successful. The Portland Oregonian insisted on some stats and that's when I figured out that there had been 20 recalls and 13 of the 20 resulted in the official being kicked out of office, (as have both of the governors and two other North Dakota offices). But Wisconsin changes that stat. If both Democrats hold on, it will be 15 out of 29. Oh well.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Oregon: Election officials certify signatures of Oakridge Mayor and 3 City Councilors

Recall will go to the ballot in 40 days. Issue is a big shortfall in the city's budget.

The two-time recall loser? Portsmouth, Virginia mayor

I've mentioned that Holperin is the first state legislator to face two recall elections while serving in the state legislature. There have been others that have faced two recalls in their career. But I only know of one person who has actually lost two recalls.

Portsmouth, Virginia Mayor James Holley III served two separate terms as mayor. He was recalled and removed in both of them. Holley was first elected in 1984 and was removed in 1987. (According to the Wikipedia link, he was the first official to be removed by recall in Virginia. I don't know when Virginia adopted the recall for local officials).  He staged a comeback in 2008, only to be kick out in 2010.

Thanks to the Dave Foster at the Virginian-Pilot for this tip.

Holperin race -- super close or blowout? Tune in tomorrow

Of the two remaining Wisconsin races, the Jim Holperin is believed to be the one that the Republicans have the best chance of winning. And the polls are...conflicted. We have one Daily Kos/Public Policy Polling poll that has Holperin up 55-41, the other from We Ask America has it 51-49 Holperin. That's a big difference, so someone is going to look bad tomorrow. I do wonder why that second poll doesn't have undecideds.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Nebraska: Decatur Village Board Chairman facing recall

Issue is alleged mishandling of flooding.

California: Fullerton protesters call for recall of three councilmembers


Florida: Haines City recall petitions -- interesting petition requirements

Attempt to recall two city commissioners in Haines City, Florida. Issue is their approval of a severance package for former city manager. An interesting two round signature process. In the first round, the petitioners need 10% of registered voters. If that is approved, they then need to collect 15% of vote signatures (no word on whether they have to be different signatures). The first round is somewhere close to 900 signatures.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Australia: Arguments against NSW state recall

Yes, complaints of Wisconsin are in there

Michigan: Complaints about the cost of recalls

Right here

New Jersey: Talk of recalling Gov. Christie

Let's not hold our breath on this one. NJ would need something like 1.3 million signatures to get on the ballot, much more than in the Gray Davis recall (though unlike in Wisconsin, they have a lot of time to do that).

Arizona: Judge okays Pearce recall

Looks like we're going to the ballot in November. Some interesting discussion of how strict the election commission has to be in dealing with signatures.

Massachusetts: Lawrence Mayor recall fails to qualify

After the verification procedure, organizers came up 900 signatures short (needed 5,232, handed in 5,483 or 5,600 depending on the story) for their attempt to recall Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua. They have until Tuesday to challenge the decision. One of the complaints was that he brought a "Dominican-style dictatorship form of government."

2012 and the dangers of a Scott Walker recall

Here is an article I wrote for Roll Call on the proposed Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker recall. This started out as a blog post for Wednesday, but I held it off for publication. Here's a brief summary of some of the key points.

Democrats and the labor unions have been talking up the Walker recall, but there are a problems with it. The most obvious one is practical --  There is a reason that there have only been two gubernatorial recalls in U.S. history, North Dakota in 1921 and California in 2003. And, as I've said before, Wisconsin’s rules are tough, as the state has one of the hardest signature requirements to get a recall on the ballot. 

But this practical problem is compounded by a more serious political one. Would the recall backfire against the Democrats in the presidential election? Possibly, and the reason is timing. There are three time periods when you can have the recall. One is as special election (which is anytime), the second is on the same day as a primary, and the third is on the same day as a general election.

The problem with a special election is that it costs a lot of money to hold (Gray Davis’ recall cost the state somewhere in the neighborhood of $66 million and that was without a primary vote). As I've mentioned beforeThe cost of the recall is generally not a great defense for a sitting official. Sometimes it works, but frequently it fails. However, if Walker survives, then the cost of the recall could become a great weapon for the Republicans in November. It plays directly into their overarching theme of profligate Democrats.

Holding a recall on primary day would potentially be a disaster for the Democrats, as the Republicans have a presidential campaign that day, and the Democrats do not.

A general election would fit right into a presidential race, and it would end up being almost a standard gubernatorial race, but one where the Democrats have a built-in voter advantage (the party has won the state in every presidential race since 1984). However, the Republicans are well aware of the negative consequences of holding a recall on Election Day. As this AP story notes (I spoke with the reporter, but my comments weren't included), you can be certain they would do everything in their power to prevent it. It is not too hard to do – look at the so-called fake Democratic primaries in the senatorial recalls. That pushed off the recall date by a month. It will be extremely difficult for the Democrats to time this recall properly.

The talk of taking out Walker is big rallying point for the Democrats, and a way to mitigate any pain felt from their failure to capture the Senate. But make no mistake about it, a gubernatorial recall would be a massive undertaking, one that could cause the party grief come November. 

Utah: Paper calls for state's adoption of the recall


Wisconsin: Recall yielded large number of absentee ballot votes

Could the fact that the recall took place in August have something to do with this?

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Massachusetts: Decision on Lawrence Mayor recall coming down tomorrow

Certification takes place tomorrow.

Michigan: Who is really trying to recall House member?

The Mackinac Center looks into backers of recall of Michigan state Rep. Paul Scott. Tries to tie it into the Unions, and makes a lot about out of district petition gatherers.

South Dakota: Whitewood Mayor facing recall

Again, the police are an issue

Washington: 65,500 signatures turned in for recall of Pierce County Treasurer-Assessor

Seems like a big number, until you see that the position requires 65,495 signatures. The petitioning deadline is open until August 30, so the petitioners are hoping to clear 80,000 -- depends on the state, but here's a reason to be cautious. Here's some details on the case, and here's the recall proponents website. The recall is expected to cost between $350,000 and $950,000

Wisconsin: State Rep looks to modify recall law

State Rep. Robin Vos is proposing making the recall only available for criminal convictions or ethics violations (what we call a judicial --i.e. the reason for the recall has to be approved by a judge after the inevitable lawsuit-- rather than a strictly political recall). Seven states have the judicial recall (I prefer to think of it as a malfeasance standard). I've never heard of a state changing the law to that approach, though. Left unsaid is whether this would be for local offices or just state level ones.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Different take on voter turnout from Craig Gilbert

Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Craig Gilbert has a different take on turnout, with a detailed analysis of the actual numbers. The difference is expectation. Because of the press, because of the power potential of the vote (you could switch the Senate!) and because of the Gray Davis results, I thought (independent of the polls) that the recalls would top the off-year numbers.

Democrats Fall Short -- On to Next Tuesday!

The Darling race ends up not that close -- she took 54% of the vote.

Did Wisconsin's voter turnout numbers disappoint? Did it prevent the Democrats from winning the Senate?

Turnout is definitely higher than we would usually expect for a run of the mill recall -- which is frequently something like half the turnout of a general election. But these recalls were exceptional. Should we have hoped for more? The Gray Davis recall, the only one that really imprinted itself on the people's minds, saw much higher voter participation than in the 2002 general election that elected Davis.

The Wisconsin results seem to be a little below par with the off-year general election in 2010. I say seems because we can't make a direct comparison. All of these seats are only up for vote in a presidential election year (2008 , 2004), which sees a much higher vote total than an off-year election. Looking at the comparisons from the piece by Craig Gilbert, all but one of the five races appear to have less votes than in 2010. (Can't say about Darling's seat just yet).

Since the closest race was actually won by a Democrat, it's hard to say how much of a difference a better turnout would have made. It could possibly have helped the Democrats carry the Olson seat, but they would have needed at least 2,000 more votes in a race that saw a shade under 51,000 votes cast.

TalkingPointsMemo calling it for Darling

TalkingPointsMemo is claiming that Darling will pull out the race. The Democrats fail to capture the Senate, and now must defend two seats next week.

Democratic Party spokesman accuses Waukesha County Clerk of tampering

Right on cue, the Waukesha County Clerk is coming under fire.

Waukesha again in the cross-hairs

A large chunk of votes just came in for Darling in Waukesha County, putting her in the lead 52-48 with nearly 80% counted. As Election Law Blogger Rick Hasen notes, Waukesha is the same county that screwed up in the Supreme Court race. If Darling pulls this out, we may be hearing about this one tomorrow.

Democrats pick-up a second one, with one to go

The fifth race has been called for the Democrats -- the Jessica King over Randy Hooper rerun/rematch from 2008 is 51-49. One left -- and Pasch is leading Darling 52-48.

Blowouts and barnburners -- Few examples of close recalls

As I've mentioned before, recalls tend to be blowouts, one way or another. No one was predicting a set of blowouts tonight, though three of the races are large victories (58% of the vote). A look at thistory won't help us too much. George Petak, the first Wisconsin Senator to be recalled, lost 51-47. But this year in Omaha, the Mayor survived 51-49. So, no real help there.

Darling closes the gap

Now 51-49 Pasch with 63% reporting. Still 50-50 in the other seat 87% reporting.

Four down, two to go

First Democratic pick-up has occurred with the Kapake seat. The Labor sources were wrong -- Olson won with 52% of the vote. Two seats left, and one is 50-50, and the other is Democrat up 10% with only 43% reporting.

Second race called for Republicans

Sheila Harsdorf has been declared the winner. And the Republicans are leading in most of the races, except for the Kapanke v. Shilling race, which was expected to go Democrat. That race seems to be closer than the earlier polls.

Republicans doing well -- one race called already

Robert Cowles has already been declared the winner of his race over Nancy Nusbaum. In one of the key races, Olson v. Clark, Olson is up by 10% with 71% of the precincts reporting.

Labor feeling confident in Olson v. Clark race

According to the Washington Post. And the early results bear that out -- Clark's got a strong 12 vote lead already! I love early results, especially when one candidate has 90+% of the vote with one percent reporting.

Polls Close Shortly -- Places for results

Here's the Journal Sentinel's site

The Washington Post will have a liveblog

Wisconsin: Voter turnout heavy and some good overviews

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's All Politics Blog is a great place for updates, including news of heavy voter turnout and the latest on the campaign finance donations. Here's Craig Gilbert's look at the statistical hill the Democrats must climb to take the needed three seats today.

Here's MSNBC's Tom Curry looking  at some of the larger picture stories to come out of the recall.

The Bermuda Triangle of politics: The mysterious disappearances of the recall in politics, history and academy

There is an assumption – one that I share – that the Wisconsin recalls will serve as the start of a new role for the recall in electoral government. It fits in with some of the major trends of representative democracy – namely that engaged (and enraged) voters insist on taking an increasingly active role in policy making and refuse to accept the “trustee” form of government. However, you can also take a more cautious view on the longer term prospects for the recall. The recall frequently disappears from view, and it could happen again. From the very beginning, I’ve found that the recall is the Bermuda Triangle of politics.

My introduction to the academic side of the recall was an article (that is not available online) by Lawrence Sych. If I remember correctly, one of the footnotes noted the dearth of writing on the recall. Of course, once I was finishing up my thesis, this book came out on the recall in 1997. However, as far as I can tell, despite a few very big newsworthy recalls in the ensuing years, neither of these authors ever wrote about the recall again, nor did their most immediate predecessor.

That seems to be a theme with the recall, both in academy and in politics.  The coverage of the subject, the long term trends, and even the basic history of the device quickly disappears from public view. Unsurprisingly, we know little about the use of the recall and its effects.

Take one of the big stats – before Wisconsin there have been 20 (Edit -- actually 21) state legislative recalls in U.S. History. This statistic dates to this article I wrote in 2009. If you look at the other scholars on the subject, you will find that they are missing all of the Oregon recalls. I only found out about the Oregon ones because an editor looked into it. Might there be others? It’s possible. In the Arizona, the early reports of the Russell Pearce recall couldn't say for sure whether the state ever had a legislative recall.

There are a number of other strange stats. Some places cite Michigan as adopting the recall in 1908. You would think this guy would have mentioned it in his contemporary article on the subject for the Michigan Law Review. The closest I've seen to a definitive account of the recall cites 1913 as the year for Michigan.

The same page claims that 3/4 of all recalls have been used at the city council or school board level. What does that mean? Are mayors and county officials excluded from that stat? They can’t possibly be using that to mean all local officials, right? Because then the statistics should be closer to 99%.

That’s the statistics. We also have big historical questions about the subject. Why did the recall disappear from view for over a century? I go back to 1631 with the recall, and it was definitely in the Articles of Confederation. The inclusion of the recall was a big topic for debate in the Ratification Conventions, but it wasn’t included by Madison in the proposed Amendments. After a couple of attempts to adopt the device, it was lost to headquarters until the end of the nineteenth century. Why? The idea of Instruction for Senators was certainly popular. So why was the recall forgotten?

When did it reappear? Thomas Cronin mentions the recall returned in some small cities before LA adopted it in 1903, but we don’t know the names of any of those municipalities (I asked him in an email, but understandably, he didn’t have the 20+ year information at his disposal).

Then there is the harder question for us. Why did the recall fall out of favor? On the political front, the recall has burned brightly during its adoption in the Progressive Era. But then, it disappeared from the scene. Between 1929 and 1976, the only state to add the recall was Alaska (in its new constitution). From 1935 to 1971 there appears to be no record of a state legislative recall. Why? We can throw out guesses (good economic climates, one-party domination, power of local political organizations) but that’s not a solid answer. And why did it return and stay active over the last 30 years (14 of the 21 state legislative recalls have been in that time, plus California Governor, Miami-Dade, San Francisco and two Omaha Mayors)? Was it technology or something else?

There’s also the judiciary, perhaps the most controversial of the recall issues. The recall of judicial decisions played a large role in the 1912 election. But that subject disappeared off the map after an adverse Colorado Supreme Court ruling in 1930. Why did no one bring it back? And why have Judges so uniformly escaped the threat of the recall (In case you were wondering, California Chief Justice Rose Bird was not recalled – she was voted out in a mandatory retention election)?

As Michigan, Arizona, South Carolina and even Australia, Canada and the UK are all showing, the recall is definitely enjoying another moment in the sun. But as history has shown, that doesn’t mean it will stay there.

Massachusetts: Petitions handed in against Lawrence Mayor

Petitions were handed in against the Mayor of Lawrence. They only have a few hundred more signatures than needed (need 5,232), so this may be knocked out. Some details about the complaints:

After he was inaugurated, Lantigua refused to resign his state representative seat, collecting two government paychecks as a financial crisis engulfed Lawrence. He later resigned as representative, but soon came under federal investigation for allegations of corruption as well as state scrutiny for possible campaign finance violations.
A string of incidents followed, including a public battle with the police over who was responsible for rising crime after Lantigua severely cut the police force; allegations by Lantigua that a driver tried to run him down in front of City Hall - which police said could not be proven; and the revelation that his live-in girlfriend was receiving heating aid for low-income residents even though their household income was much higher than the poverty level.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Texas: Jasper City Council Fails to set recall date for three councilmembers

Petitioners claim that black councilmembers refused to consider white applicants in choosing a police chief

Arizona: Judge hears arguments on Senate Majority Leader Russell Pearce recall

Pearce is looking to throw out the petitions. It looks like recalls have a lower standard of compliance:

The Arizona Supreme Court has ruled that recall petitions do not need to comply "strictly'' with the legal requirements but only "substantially.'' That is a far lower burden, with courts giving more leeway to allowing a recall election to proceed despite what might be technical mistakes by petition circulators.
Hegyi asked whether he, as a trial judge, can ignore that ruling, even if it occurred nearly 90 years ago.

What to expect when you’re expecting recalls: A guide to state legislative recalls

Edit Note: Since publication, I've found out about a 1981 state legislative recall, pushing the pre-2011 amount of recalls from 20 to 21. I've changed the number to reflect that figure.

While the political arguments surrounding tomorrow’s Wisconsin recall elections are well covered elsewhere, I’d like to draw attention to the many issues and history surrounding the use of the recall – both in Wisconsin and the rest of the nation. Due to the unprecedented circumstances in Wisconsin, we shouldn’t expect the usual recall phenomena like low voter turnout and blow victories. Yet such recall norms are worth considering even in the context of Wisconsin, for the insight they bear on how recalls are used.

As others have stated, the last few years has seen a recall boomlet (though the way they are citing Ballotpedia as the source shows they probably don’t understand how a wiki works). Most credit/blame the recession, but recall use has probably been growing for at least the last thirty years (14 of the 21 state legislative recalls have been since 1981). I cite technological changes as a major driver in the recalls growth.

Let’s get onto our key talking points:

History in the making

How historic are Wisconsin recall elections? Since 1908 (when Oregon became the first state to adopt the recall for state level officials), there have been 21 state legislative recall elections in the entire country. In this term, Wisconsin will have nine recalls in a little over a month.

Previously, the maximum recalls in one legislative session were three in California in 1995. Michigan in 1983 (taxes) and Idaho in 1971 (pay raise) both had two at once.

Will voters shy away from switching party control of the Senate? Nope! If the Democrats win at least three seats and lose none, they will have gained a majority in the Senate. There have been three recalls (four or five if you want to count California in 1995 multiple times) that could have switched the legislature (Michigan 1983, California 1995, Wisconsin 1996). All of them succeeded.

Recalls are frequently successful – 13 of the 21 (now 22 thanks to the July 19 Wisconsin race) recalls have resulted in the official being kicked out of office, as have both of the governors. There are no hard numbers for others recalls, but it does seem to be over 50%.

Democratic State Senator Jim Holperin is the first state legislator to face two recalls during his state legislative career. (Others have faced multiple recalls, but never as a state legislator).

Turn in, turn on, turnout:

Historically, recalls have been all about the fabled ground game. Few people come out to vote in recalls (or other special elections), as there is usually only one race on the ballot and you have to know about and care about the race (which is one of the reasons that the recall proponents have an advantage in the recall). In 1994, the three California Assembly recalls saw 20 to 25% turnout, with similar numbers in Michigan in 1983. The last Wisconsin recall, against Gary George in 2003, saw 8% turnout.

However, there are exceptions – Gray Davis’ recall had a much higher turnout than his 2002 reelection race. In a different type of special election, Scott Brown’s widely followed Senatorial election win in Massachusetts had a very high turnout.  And, as’ Craig Gilbert of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel points out, the turnout for the recall primaries in July was much higher than would normally be expected. The normal rules of the road for recalls will probably not play here -- we should expect a high turnout.


The Wisconsin recalls promise to be close. Due to the unusual nature – and massive press coverage -- of these recalls, we can expect both parties to get their supporters to the polls. But don’t be surprised if we see some blowouts – Blowouts are the norm in a recall vote. The winner of recall elections generally triumph with over 60% of the vote.

The future for Wisconsin and the rest of the country:

The recall has historically been a below the radar weapon (I’ll have a post on its “Bermuda Triangle” nature tomorrow), so it is possible that the recall will once again disappear from view. But there is every reason to believe the recall is ready for its close-up.

There is already another recall race this year -- Arizona’s Senate Majority Leader Russell Pearce in November. Michigan is facing multiple recall petitioning challenges, both against state legislators and the Governor. Petitions have already been handed in against one state Rep, with the verification process yet to be completed.

In Wisconsin, the threats are out there. You have to serve one year before a recall, so the Senators elected in 2010 will all be coming due for a recall battle starting in January, as will Governor Walker. The Assembly members will also have the same problem, but perhaps tactical considerations may make them less likely to be a focus (they only serve two years terms, which are half over. The money and effort may be better spent on those serving another three years).

The Walker recall poses its own challenges. There have been only two Govenors to ever face a recall (North Dakota's Lynn Frazier in 1921, California's Gray Davis in 2003, plus Arizona's Evan Meacham would have faced one if he wasn't impeached). Wisconsin has a relatively strict signature requirement. It requires a high number of signatures in a very compressed timeframe – only 60 days (only four states limit the gathering period to 60 days).  This could make a recall of Walker quite difficult

Ain’t Misbehaving:

Despite the widespread belief that the recall is only suppose to be used for criminal conduct and malfeseance, only four of the recalls were based on conduct. The rest were on policy votes and politics.

Recall Defenses: 
Do voters care if the recall is perceived to be instigated by a political party or by an interest group? Check here for some thought.

Campaign finance:
Wisconsin has an unusual campaign finance law for the recall – no limit on donations. Wisconsin isn't the only state to have a very different campaign finance law for recalls, as Washington State shows. 

Will there be lawyers?
You better believe there will be lawyers.

And finally, some consolation for the electoral losers. 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.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

RIP NY Governor Hugh Carey

Former NY Governor Hugh Carey, the man whose name graces our Institute, passed away today. The NYT notes his critical role in government reform:

Outside the fiscal realm, Mr. Carey promised an era of openness and clean government. He mandated financial disclosure for top state officials, barred party leaders from holding major state posts and signed campaign finance laws that set limits and required disclosure. He secured voter approval of a constitutional amendment providing for appointment, rather than election, of judges to the Court of Appeals, New York’s highest court, a change that was viewed as insulating the court from politics.

Nebraska: Chadron Mayor and Vice mayor facing recall

Signatures have been confirmed -- 45 days to hold the recall

Michigan: Car Accident derails Recall effort against State Rep.

Recall campaign against State Rep. Nancy Jenkins fails to hand in petitions due to a car accident.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Democrats boasting of potential victory, "unintended consequences" of debt-deal

According to the Washington Post, the Democrats are confident of winning 3 and defending both of their seats. Here's an article arguing that the debt deal could sap the motivation from the Democrats side.