Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Wisconsin: Assembly approves Vos' Malfeasance or Judicial Recall Standard law for recall

On a 60-37, nearly party-line vote, the Wisconsin State Assembly approved Robin Vos' amendment to the recall law. The amendment would change Wisconsin from a political recall state -- a recall can be undertaken for basically any reason -- to a judicial recall (or malfeasance standard) state -- petitioners need to meet a judicially decided criteria to allow the recall to go forward.

This is the first step in a long process to change the law. It needs to pass both houses in two separate sessions of the legislature to get on the ballot, and then the voters have to approve it.

Some basic background here.

  • 18 states have the recall for all state level officials (and Illinois has it for just the governor). 
  • 11 have political recalls, and 7 have judicial recalls (Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Rhode Island, Washington) -- Virginia has a recall trial, which is a bit different.
  • The vast majority of the recalls take place in political recall states (though this year we've seen recalls on the local level in Alaska, Kansas and Montana).
  • Of the 32 state legislators who faced a recall in US history, only one was in a judicial recall state (Peter Von Reichbauer of Washington in 1981). I'm still looking for the reason that the Von Reichbauer recall was allowed to go forward.
  • At least four of the last five states to adopt the recall have taken a judicial recall approach (Alaska, Georgia, Minnesota, Montana). I don't know when Rhode Island adopted the recall. New Jersey was the one state that did not adopt a judicial recall.
  • On the other hand, the recall was adopted by at least three jurisdictions last year. None took a judicial recall stance.
As I mention in the AP article, after every prominent recall, there seems to be calls for radically revising the recall. Both Michigan and Arizona are undergoing similar questions (Michigan's may be muted by the fact that a Republican succeeded the recalled Republican). 

If the Vos amendment would become law, it would effectively end the recall (note that Minnesota adopted the recall in 1996, and according to this article, has yet to have a recall). But voters seem to like the recall -- and an attempt to mess with it might very well backfire.

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