Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Oregon: Harney County Judge survives recall over National Wildlife Refuge takeover; Signatures handed in for Commissioner

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty (the judge chairs the three person county commission) easily survived his recall, getting 70% of the vote. This recall was over the takeover of Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by supporters of Ammon Bundy.

Grasty's term runs out in January.

Petitioners have also looked to recall Commissioner Boyd Britton over similar issues (and some other claims). Petitioners handed in 567 signatures and they need 490 valids.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Venezuela: Opposition claims they are ready to start major signature gathering effort

It sounds like there will be a big delaying action. The government has only validated 400,000 signatures from the first round -- many more than needed, but a bad sign to how they will behave for the second round of 4 million signatures.

Kenya: Recall law up to the court

Kenya's recall law is going up to their Supreme Court, with a three judge panel hearing the challenge to the law allowing recalls against MPs and Senators.

Texas: Signatures collected in Windcrest Mayor Pro Tem recall

Mayor Pro Tem Kimberly Wright is facing a potential recall over allegations that she lied about the allocation of city funds and has passed ordinances that bans the raising of chickens in backyards, refused to say the pledge of allegiance and denied being a US citizen. Those last two are definitely different. School issues seem to be playing a big role as well.

Petitioners claims to have more than 400 signatures in a week.

Oregon: Recall of Harney County Judge over Bundy occupation set for tomorrow

Harney County Judge Steve Grasty is facing a recall vote tomorrow over his position on the takeover of a federal wildlife refuge center that ended in February by supporters of Ammon Bundy.. Grasty (who is not a judge but an administrative officer) will be retiring in December regardless.

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Georgia: Holly Springs Councilwoman facing petitions

Dee Phillips is facing a recall threat -- unfortunately, I can't read the article behind the paywall. Hopefully, there will be more info soon.

California: San Diego putting changes to removal process on the ballot

San Diego is finally changing their removal law, three years after Mayor Bob Filner was kicked out of office.

The rules will allow the city council to put a removal vote against the mayor and city attorney on the ballot with a no confidence vote. They also allow removal for conviction and suspensions for being criminally charged.

The council is scheduled to debate debate this in July and put it on the November ballot.

Colorado: Five Platte Canyon School Board members facing petitions

All five Platte Canyon School Board Members, Chet Lawrence, Katie Spodyak, Katy Davis, Susan Carpenter and Jon DeStefano, are facing petitions  over the non-renewal of a middle school principal and ACT scores, graduate rates, management and questions about water quality and emergency exits. Three of the board members are up for reelection next year.

Petitioners need 650 signatures by August 21 to be on the November ballot. The school board has not had a contested election since 2009.

Montana: Libby Editor resigns after revelation that he helped draft Mayoral recall petition

The recall effort against Mayor Doug Roll has taken a new twist. The editor of the Western News, Bob Henline, reportedly helped draft the recall petition against the mayor. Two petitions were rejected (Montana is a judicial recall/malfeasance standard state and the petition requires a specific legal cause to go forward), but a third one was accepted on June 17. Petitioners need 329 signatures in 90 days.

The issues cited in the final petition against Roll include an alleged refusal to follow the city council in scheduling meetings and listing items on the agenda as well as executing a contract for a city attorney without approval of the council.

Henline joined the paper in October 2014 and covered city government.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Ballotpedia sees rises in recalls in 2016

Ballotpedia's mid-year report is out and they are seeing a big rise in recalls. This shouldn't be a surprise -- 2012 is the year that has the most recalls since I've been tracking, so it could be that recalls see an increase in presidential election years.

Ohio: East Cleveland Councilman survives second recall attempt in less than a year

City Council President Thomas Wheeler survived his second recall attempt, winning about 52%. There were 267 votes cast -- about 6.9% of the vote. Wheeler is facing a recall due to his support for a move to merge East Cleveland into Cleveland.

California: Polls show big support for Judge Persky's removal


Colorado: Aurora School Board Member facing recall and resignation calls over fabricated information

Aurora School Board Member Eric Nelson, who is running for a state House seat, is being pushed to resign and facing recall threats after it was revealed that he fabricated college degrees, embellished his military record, downplayed his criminal history and missed child support payments. Nelson is running in the Democratic Primary for the House.

Here's an editor at the Aurora Sentinel calling for his recall.

Virginia: Portsmouth recall attempt moves forward

Petitioners claim to have 8108 signatures for the recall of Mayor Kenny Wright. They need 7776 (they won't be submitting until July 12). The petitioner also led the effort against Mayor James Holley III, who Wright beat in 2010.

Wright is also running for reelection in November.

North Carolina: Tobaccoville's recall law advances in Senate

Tobaccoville's proposed recall law passed a Senate committee. It has already been passed by the House. The precipitating event was the resignation and then the taking back the resignation of Mayor Bill McHone in January.

Oregon: Central Oregon Coast Fire and Rescue District Board Chair resigns

Board Chair Ray Woodruff resigned following the certification of a recall petition signed by 260 voters. The issue was the sale of fire ambulances.

Virginia:Norfolk Recall Trial makes the ballot

We are now going to get a chance to see a recall trial in action, as petitioners have met the signature requirement to put a recall against Norfolk Treasurer Anthony Burfoot on the ballot. Petitioners got 4670 signatures, they needed 4656. Petitioner handed in about 6500 signatures. No date has been set for the trial.

Burfoot (elected in 2013) has been indicted for kickbacks when he was a councilman. Retired Circuit Judge James D'Alton will preside.

Minnesota: Willmar Council approves recall amendments on payment for recalls

Willmar's council, which had some failed recall attempts, clarified the recall law, now holding that the city is not responsible for costs of a recall committee and a member of recall committee cannot be reimbursed for the service.

Washington: Garfield Mayor recall rejected by judge

The recall attempt against Mayor Ray McCown was squashed by Whitman County Judge Dave Frazier, with the judge holding that the recall lacks evidence and doesn't meet the requirements.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

UK: Isle of Man/Tynwald MHK calls for recall law


Ohio: East Cleveland Councilman facing second recall in seven months

Council President Thomas Wheller, who survived a December 8 recall that saw 7% of voters turnout out, is facing another one today, with results to be announced on July 8. Wheeler keeps facing trouble over his efforts to merge East Cleveland with Cleveland itself.

This is a rare recall. Most jurisdictions ban multiple recall votes in one term. You only get one bite of that apple.

Tennessee: State Senator looking into recall law

Following the federal indictment of Murfreesboro Sheriff Robert Arnold over charges of profiting from the sale of JailCigs (and e-cigarette business), State Senator Bill Ketron is looking into laws that would allow for removal of officials facing charges. Commissioner Robert Peavy Jr. noted that a recall law would make that possible.

New Mexico: Eldorado Community Improvement Association looking at recall over sign removal

Homeowner association board member Claudia Daigle is facing recall petitions for removing a political sign from private property. Daigle claimed that the sign was put up too early. Petitioners need 416 signatures. There are also issues of raising chickens on the property.

Virginia: Five Challengers in Portsmouth Mayor race

Portsmouth Mayor Kenny Wright, who won office in a recall and now may be removed in one, is facing five challengers.

Oregon: Statesman Journal editorial misses the point of recalls

Another day, another editorial claiming that: "Recall is an important right for Oregon voters. But it should be reserved for egregious situations, not personal or political differences."

Obviously, the Statesman Journal has a strong dispute with Oregon's actual law, which very specifically says no such thing.

California: Moreno Valley Councilwoman refuses to resign over past embezzlement conviction

More trouble in Moreno Valley, as Councilwoman LaDonna Jempson is facing a push for her resignation or recall over a decades old conviction. Jempson was charged with theft at a bank she worked at in 1982. She fled from San Francisco to Alaska and returned. In 1991, she turned herself in and was spent 45 days in prison.

The complaint is that Jempson did not disclose this information during her election over former Councilwoman Victoria Baca in a recall two years ago.

Colorado: No fraud in Castle Rock Councilmember recall signatures

The District Attorney has rejected Councilmember Renne Valentine's claim petitioners had fraudulently obtained signatures in the recall effort against her. The District Attorney independently verified the signatures with the signers. The recall is set for November 8. Petitioners got 273 signatures, they needed 268.

Of note is that Valentine's attorney was Scott Gessler, former Colorado Secretary of State and candidate for Governor (he lost in the 2014 Republican primary), who has been a controversial leader of the arguments that the country is overwhelmed by voter fraud.

The petitioners took note of Gessler's role in the attack:
"The way that Renee Valentine publicly sullied the reputations and questioned the integrity of myself and my fellow petitioners is unconscionable," Fienen said. "While we knew her allegations that we committed fraud were baseless, we feel vindicated that the district attorney's office found her accusations to be wholly and completely untrue." 
"What Valentine and Gessler did was a political stunt - a political dirty trick that didn't work," said Brooks, referring to Scott Gessler, Valentine's attorney.

Wisconsin: Petitioners claim they have the signatures for Sevastopol School Board Recall

Petitioners have claimed that they have enough signatures to get school board members Sue Todey and Bill Behme on the ballot over their vote to not offer a new contract to an elementary school principal. There was a previous failed attempt to recall school board member Jay Zahn and Jane Luebker.

Petitioners need 743 signatures. They have 829 and 824 unverified. They now have to hand them in.

American Thinker article touting Presidential Recall law

The article notes the 1951 proposed constitutional amendment which would have put in a recall law for president (it was proposed by New Jersey Senator Robert Hendrickson (R)). The Hendrickson recall was a mix of legislative and popular vote -- they needed 2/3rds of the state legislature to ask for a recall (no signatures required) and the Speaker would complete the term.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Venezuela: 600,000 signatures rejected, including from the former opposition presidential candidate

Venezuela has rejected more than 600,000 of the two million signatures, among them the two-time presidential candidate Henrique Capriles. This after a week of numerous food riots.

Nigeria: Three House of Representative members facing recall threats over prostitution scandal

Three members of Nigerian House of Representatives, Mohammed Gololo, Samuel Ikon and Mark Gbilah, are facing calls for their resignations or recall after they were accused of soliciting prostitutes in Cleveland.

California: Petitioners claim they have $90k raised for Persky recall

Here -- this piece by NBC News' Phil Helsel is very comprehensive and mentions some of the famed recall of judge events over the year, such as the O.J. Simpson judge and the Prop 8 judge, none of which got on the ballot.

Montana: Libby Mayor recall petitions start

After a rejection on being too broad, petitioners have gotten approval for a recall attempt against Libby Mayor Doug Roll. Petitioners need 329 signatures. Roll is accused of meeting the city attorney without the council's consent, though an earlier attempt focused on his suit to get an opponent kicked off the ballot.

Ohio: Upper Arlington signatures handed in

Petitioners have filed signatures against Council President Deborah Johnson, Councilmen David Decapua, Kip Greenhill and John Adams (4 of 7 members of the council). The issue is the $7 million renovation of Northam Park as well as an increase in the city's income tax. being used to fund the park redevelopment.

Petitioners need 2273 signatures, they claim they have over 3,000. The special will cost at least $63,000.

Montana: Whitehall Mayor and council recall has enough signature for August 16 vote

Petitioners handed in enough signatures to get a recall against Whitehall Mayor Dale Davis and Council President Joe Adams, Aldermen Gary Hosman, Tom Jenkin and Vincent Keogh. The claim is that the mayor and majority of the council (two members are not facing a recall) violated the open meeting law over a vote to dispatch the Whitehall ambulance to all fire calls. The two council members who weren't at the meeting are associated with a private ambulance.

The recall is scheduled for August 16, though the elected officials could challenge the vote. Montana is judicial recall/malfeasance standard state and requires a showing of cause. If the event wasn't a violation, then it is likely no recall can be held.

If it is a mail-in vote it will cost $1600, but if it is an in-person ballot it will be $10,000.

Friday, June 17, 2016

California: My op-ed on the difficulties of the Recall of a Judge

The San Jose Mercury News just ran my op-ed on the recall efforts against Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky over his sentencing of a Stanford University swimmer to a six month jail term for rape. My op-ed (which I don't get to headline) is about how difficult and unusual recalls of judges are. It also touches on the fact that the recall of judges (and judicial decisions) is hotly contested issue in the early history of the recall. What the op-ed isn't about (despite the headline, is that a recall is almost impossible or futile). It's just very difficult due to one very critical factor. I've already discussed this story in-depth, but let's look at some of the issues again.

First, let's define our terms: I call this subject the recall of a judge, rather than judicial recall. In the history and the literature the term Judicial Recall refers to something totally different (what I call the malfeasance standard or for cause recalls). A judicial recall occurs in states and jurisdictions where a judge is required to rule on whether a recall meets a specific standard to get on the ballot. Essentially, the official has to have violated the law or shown demonstrable incompetence for the recall to be placed on the ballot. It has nothing to do with removing judges. I keep this divide up so as not to confuse people who may be conversant or studying the literature.

The recall will require a ton of signatures about 59000 valids, though I believe that may be in dispute. That is a big challenge, but with a motivated base, it is probably not impossible. The fact that someone is willing to back the effort and that Stanford law professors are leading the charge (and can presumably handle the legal work pro bono) is a couple of big pluses in favor of the recall effort.

The bigger problem is what I would call the "grace period." Due to incredible timing, Persky is up for reelection in November. This has a double impact. 1) He cannot face a recall in the last six months of his term, 2) Petitions cannot be started on his new term until he is in office and those petitions cannot be started until he is in office for 3 months. So the petitioners will have to wait until April to even start. We've seen this exact grace period event happen to Portland Mayor Sam Adams. That recall went nowhere. That doesn't mean it can't happen. It just

The other big point is that recalls of judges almost never happen. The last to get to a vote was in Wisconsin 1982, the last successful one was in 1977. In California, the last recall of a Superior Court Judge was in 1932. There were only a few before then, notably one in 1913 that was over similar leniency in sex crimes. (Leniency in sex crimes are a very popular recall issue -- the 1982 and 1977 were both over that issue as well. There have been discussion in Orange County and in Montana of recalls over that issue).

The other problem here is that recalling judges has always been controversial. The recall of judges and judicial decision was a key flash point in the Taft-Roosevelt split in 1912.

None of this means that a recall cannot work. But the grace period, tied in with the sheer amount of signatures and the usual hesitancy in recalling judges makes this a serious challenge for petitioners.

Venezuela: My op-ed in Foreign Affairs on the challenges facing the Presidential recall

Here is my article on the difficulties that the opposition will face in recalling President Nicolas Maduro. Much of the article is about the recent history and use of the recall across the globe, but here's a some key points about Venezuela in particular:

  • The country has two turnout requirements -- the votes against Maduro must top his 7,587,579 that he received in his last election and 25% of registered voters must come out to vote (the second is not really an issue in this recall).
  • Turnout requirements (I like to think of them as an absentee veto) are unusual in the US, but not elsewhere. Romanian President Traian Basescu survived two recalls based on the turnout hurdle. 
  • Maduro's best bet may be to suppress the vote -- he could push his supporters not to show up, he could make voting hard (we've seen this a lot in the US) or his supporters could take a more aggressive stance, like rioting, which may drive down turnout.
  • If the recall is held in 2017, Maduro's successor will be his VP. This is not that unusual a provision. Oregon doesn't have a replacement vote either and neither does Michigan's Governor. Of course, Venezuela only has a very short window for a recall to take place (basically just one year). Maduro has numerous options to try and delay the vote. We see this type of behavior all the time in the US. It would definitely not be a surprise if Maduro is successful in pushing off the recall till 2017.

Review of Democracy for Realists

Here's Thomas Mann's look at the new book on the challenges of democracy

Thursday, June 16, 2016

California: Round-up of Stories on Santa Clara Judge recall

Here's a piece in the Daily Caller on the leaders of the recall effort; Here's Erwin Chemerinsky opposing the recall in the SJ Mercury News (which has an op-ed of mine in the hopper for the last week or so) and here's Jennifer Hagan calling for him to resign; and this detailed op-ed by Estelle Freedman on two sexual assault recalls of judges (The Wisconsin Judge Archie Simonson one from 1977 I've dealt with in depth before).

The first one is interesting -- the 1913 recall of San Francisco Police Court Justice Charles Weller. Weller was known for setting very low bail for rape (and notably statutory rape) defendants, allowing them to skip town. According to Bird & Ryan, Weller lost 30,784-29,934.

North Carolina: Cornelius Mayor facing threats of recall -- if they have the law

Cornelius Mayor Chuck Travis is facing calls to resign after taking a trip to the state capital with Davidson Mayor John Woods to lobby for a toll lane on 1-77. The town council opposes this law, and the town council had a no confidence vote for Travis. The city is looking into whether a recall can be held.

California: LA Times doesn't come down on a side in recall of Santa Clara judge

The position seems to be that we shouldn't elect judges in the first place.

Venezuela: Interview with opposition leader


Oregon: Signatures approved against two Gardiner Sanitary District Board Members

Petitions were handed in against Board members Richard Nored and Susanna Noordhoff by former board member Mack Holman over conducting business in private and overcharging him for copies of board emails. He needed 13 signatures and handed in 22. There are only 121 voters in the district. The election is July 19.

Arizona: Superior Mayor recall effort moving forward

Mayor Jayme Valenzuela is currently on leave for stress after being facing charges of making cash withdrawals on the town debit card at a casino.

Valenzuela took office after Mayor Michael Hing was removed in 2011.

Virginia: Norfolk Treasurer recall effort 462 signatures short

The effort against Norfolk Treasurer Anthony Burfoot (D) is 462 signatures short at the moment -- this is for a recall trial, rather than a recall vote. Petitioners are still looking out for more signatures. Burfoot was indicted over bribery and kickback charges.

The petitioners handed in over 6000 signatures and need 4656. However, only 4194 have been verified -- many of the others had no date and other issues.

Nevada: More about extortion case against GOP adviser in failed Senate President recall effort


Michigan: New Buffalo Mayor and Mayor Pro-Tem facing petitions

New Buffalo Mayor Lou O'Donnell and Mayor Pro-Tem John Peterson petitions have been approved, now they have to get signatures.

California: Yermo Community Service Board President, VP removed, third director resigns

Following the removal of President Bob Smith and VP Berner, Director David Jensen resigned from the board. The board will only have one seat filled.

Oregon: Senate President Recall fails

The effort to recall Oregon State Senate President Peter Courtney failed, with petitioners not handing in any signatures. They needed 4533.

Colorado: Interview with former Senate President John Morse

Here's an interview with Morse about his recall for his support for gun control efforts.

California: Second Los Banos School Board member facing recall

17-year School Board Member Dennis Areias is facing a recall effort -- he had an effort dropped three years ago. John Mueller's recall is set for August 23.

The issue for Areias' recall is construction projects, academic scores and a "perceived lack of respect."

Colorado: Castle Rock recall on the ballot

Councilmember Renee Valentine will be on the ballot on November 8. Her case against the recall is still be examined. Mayor Paul Donahue's recall will be on the July 26 ballot. His term is up at the end of the year.

Friday, June 10, 2016

New Jersey: Lopatcong Township Mayoral recall fails

The effort to recall Mayor Tom McKay failed. Petitioners handed in 1274 signatures on May 26, 1104 were valid. They needed 1466. There was actually a debate on the deadline for signatures, but now that's moot.  The issue included the mayor's censure over harassment allegations by a town clerk. You can read his discussion of the issues, which focuses on the "machine" opposing him and his supporters.

Alaska: North Slope Borough Mayor replacement race to close to call; possible runoff with brother-in-law of ousted mayor in second

The replacement race for North Slope Borough Mayor Charlotte Brower, who lost her seat on April 5 due to questions on her spending (notably paying for a trip to basketball camp in California for her grandkids), doesn't have a decisive victor, but Brower herself came in sixth.

The race requires the winner to get 40% of the vote. There were seven candidates and the leader has 32%, so we should have a runoff. The former borough mayor George Ahmaogak Sr. came in first. Second is Harry Brower Jr., Charlotte Brower's brother-in-law. Charlotte Brower came in sixth (she got 40 votes) and seventh was her cousin.

California: San Bernardino Councilman recall over marijuana regulation fails

No signatures were handed in against San Bernardino Councilman Fred Shorett. The issue was regulation of marijuana, with the lead petitioner trying to promote his own plan to marijuana regulation.

Colorado: Councilmember claims signatures look suspicious in Castle Rock scheduled for November

Castle Rock Town Councilmember Renee Valentine is trying to get the DA to investigate the signatures handed in for in her recall scheduled for November, as she claims that they look different. Valentine handed in 300 signatures, 273 were valid, and 268 were needed (the Mayor is also facing a recall, both over growth policies). The petitioners claim Valentine is simply trying to change the subject and is on the verge of slanderous behavior.

North Dakota: Signatures handed in against two Parshall School Board

Signatures were handed in against Parshall School Board Members Michelle Billadeai and Jay Caluson. The issue for petitioners is falling test scores and sex harassment complaints. There seems to be a lot of drop outs in high school.

California: Grand Jury lambastes ousted Selma School Board Trustees, though no ruling on open meeting violation

The removal of Selma School District superintendent Mark Sutton by the school board was attacked by a grand jury, though they haven't indicted anyone for open meeting violation.

The three board members who voted to fire Sutton -- John Lorona, Gilbert Lopez and Roger Orosco -- were all kicked out in November.

California: Yermo Community Service Board President and VP ousted in recall

Yermo School Board President Bob Smith (131-84) and VP Geoff Berner (124-85) were ousted in recall votes, with Michael Cint and Clarissa Loehr replacing them. Cint's seat is up for reelection in November. The issue was a wrongful death and two wrongful termination suits. Smith announced he was resigning December 31, but obviously didn't go through with it.

Venezuela: Opposition lawmakers attacked in an attempt to speed up process

Here's the latest as the President Maduro's supporters appear to be slow-walking the process.

California: More on Santa Clara Judge recall

Just tons on Santa Clara Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky, though the potential petitioners do seem to have gotten the possible recall dates right, as they are focused on getting on the ballot in November. Here's a bit on the Stanford Law Professor, Michele Dauber, leading the charge for the recall.

Michigan: Attorney General recall petitions given ok

The effort to recall Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette (R) over the Flint water crisis has been approved.  Petitioners would need 789,133 signatures in 60 days.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Non Recall Op-ed on the Democratic Platform

This one is in Newsweek

Non-Recall Op-ed on the "Dream Ticket"

Here's my piece in CNBC

New edition of Democracy and Political Ignorance

A new edition of George Mason University Law Professor (and Volokh Conspiracy blogger) Ilya Somin's book Democracy and Political Ignorance is coming out. For anyone interested in the subjects brought up by recalls and direct democracy and electoral politics in general, Somin's work is a must read.

Recalls engender significant criticism from all vantage points, but frankly most of the criticism can be dismissed out of hand. Nearly every recall results in editorials, op-eds and complaints that "this fill-in-your-blank issue is not why we have a recall law, and this particular recall is an abuse of the process." As I've discussed many times, this statement is flat-out wrong. Recall laws can and are drafted to limit recalls to felonies or other misbehavior. Eight states have this type of recall -- which is confusingly called judicial recalls, but I prefer the term malfeasance standard or "for cause" recalls. Those states rarely have recalls. If the other states want that law, they can adopt it -- it's been around since at least 1912. They don't move because voters prefer having the option of a political recall -- where they can kick some one out for any reason whatsoever. So the law is the law and the recall works as designed.

But there's another underlying argument that you see in the criticism. Opposition to recalls are a case-by-case basis. Many people were in favor of recalling Governor Gray Davis (D) and opposed to recalling Governor Walker (R) and vice versa. This is the real basis for the complaints against recalls -- a "not against my team, but fine against your team" statement. Needless to say, this type of complaint is just hypocritical.

There are legitimate arguments against the recall. William Howard Taft's position was that the recall was the hair-trigger form of government and Alexander Hamilton didn't want Senators to be subject to the "capricious humors among the people." This point for the "trustee" model of government, that we want elected officials to make the big decisions rather than just represent our views, has it value, but it stops short of a more unpleasant and more truthful question. It does not forthrightly acknowledge the real question -- can the people be trusted to come to a better decision than a "trustee"?

If the mass of voters are able to have better answers than the single, arguably much more "worthy" trustee, than there should be no problem with a recall. What the argument against the recall is stating is that the mass of voters are more likely to come up with a worse answer. And why is that? This is where Somin's argument comes in. In stating that voters display shocking political ignorance. Somin provides a valid complaint against the recall and against other issues in democracy.

I'm not necessarily persuaded by Somin's argument (which I'm not dealing with here. His bigger point is empowering voters to "vote with their feet" and his work is more thoughtful than just this point. As I said, go read his post or the book for more details) . He definitely makes a strong case for political ignorance, but my experience reading about thousands of recalls suggests that politicians may have no better instinct or thought for good decision making than the mass of voters. But his argument is critical to understanding the recall and the overall trend to direct democracy and more powerful government.

Electoral structures as a whole have been moving rapidly to a more voter-directed government and away from the trustee model. This is true, whether it is from direct democracy itself (initiatives) or it is from politicians being vastly more aware of voter opinions on every single issue that crops up. In that sense, Somin's work is quite important in providing deep analysis of what the move to a more democratic system means.

It also is an example of what attracted many of us to blogs in the first place -- as a universe where you can see high-level analysis from across the political spectrum. Unfortunately, a lot of that cross-pollination has withered over the years (blogging is a lot of work) and has been replaced by partisan rants, but it is still out there. I've studied the recall (non-professionally) for almost 20 years and the writings on political ignorance were the first time I saw someone truly take a detailed, evidence-based attack on the underlying arguments in favor of allowing recalls. My goal in studying recalls was not to get rich or famous (mission accomplished!) but to gain a better understanding of a weird, completely ignored corner of the political system, one that I think actually explains a lot about how politics operates in the real world. Only a small part of my writing is on the theoretical and philosophical underpinnings of the recall, but the rest of my writing all grows out from it. The best political analysis should help me hone that understanding, and the exploration of political ignorance has done.  I probably would not have come across this if I didn't start a blog that seemed focused on First Amendment and other legal issues.

The Recall Elections Blog is obviously looking at the subject of political power from a very different point of view, but the issues he raises and discusses in numerous posts and articles on political ignorance must be seriously considered when looking at how to distribute and when to limit power.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

California: Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge facing recall threats

Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky is facing a threatened recall over his sentencing of a Stanford University swimmer/student Brock Turner to a six month jail for rape. Already, a Stanford law professor is suggesting she will lead one, and an online petition that has garnered over a million signatures (none count toward a recall). The petitioners need an unclear number of signatures which may be almost 59000, but could be much more. They also likely will not be able to start until April.

The petitioners will face a few serious problems with their recall effort. The first obvious one is that 80920 or 59000 signatures are both a hell of a lot. Of the tens of thousands of recalls that have occurred in the US, only a handful have needed more signatures – the most prominent among those were three Governors, a Lieutenant Governor and two Mayors of Los Angeles.

The other problems are more specific – it involves the grace period. California law does not allow a recall in the last six months of a term unless the official is appointed or in the first three months of a new term. Persky is up for reelection in November. While Persky was first appointed to the office, he was elected six years ago. Even if they could collect the signatures today, the recall would not be allowed.

Then if he is reelected – and that’s a good bet, as he is running unopposed -- petitioners would have to wait three months from the start of his term before starting the collection process. Now, we've seen questions on when the grace period ends crop up in an attempt against the San Francisco Mayor. Almost certainly, the signature gathering won't start till April. By then, anger may have cooled and people’s attention may wander. This has happened many times in the past.

This grace period and the fact that he is running unopposed is part of the reason we aren't completely sure about the signature totals. California law holds that the signatures required must equal be 20% of the total vote cast for the countywide office which has the least number of votes in the most recent general election.

The Registrar stated it was 80920 then changed that to almost 59000 based on a different calculation. If there is no countywide office up for election in November, then it will be the almost 59,000 signatures. However, it is not clear if any judge will be facing an election or if a court would rule that it is a position that is positions that are larger than countywide (such as Senator or President), and just includes the votes in the county. It is not a likely interpretation, but it certainly may lead to a lawsuit. If so, the election in 2016 will have a higher voter turnout (all presidential elections do).

Let's now get to some history here:

As we've discussed before, recall of judges almost never happen. There's been plenty of threats including one against an Orange County Superior Court Judge last year and one in Nevada where we are still waiting for the Supreme Court to rule on whether the judge would face a recall (here's another in Montana). The last recalls of judges we've seen in the country took place in Wisconsin back in 1977 and 1982. Much as with Persky, those recalls were about sexual assaults, though the recalls were due to incredibly inappropriate comments from the bench. In 1977, Judge Archie Simonson was tossed out by voters after both handing down extremely lenient sentencing for a rapist and making negative comments about women and rape victims from the bench. This was followed in 1982 when Judge William Reinecke survived a vote despite disparaging comments about a five-year old sexual assault victim. Note that there are many retention elections that are incorrectly described as recalls -- most notably California Supreme Court Chief Justice Rose Bird, Cruz Reynoso and Joseph Grodin and three Supreme Court members in Iowa.

The last recalls of a Judge in California were three that took place in 1932 against Los Angeles Superior Court Judges John L. Fleming, Dailey S. Stafford and Walter Guerin. All three were removed.

Using the recall against a judge has always been controversial. California's recall law almost floundered over this issue back in 1911 – a late-breaking state Supreme Court scandal proved decisive. On the national level, President William Howard Taft vetoed the Arizona constitution over a recall of judges’ provision and the recall of judges was one of the key flash points in the Taft- Theodore Roosevelt split in 1912.

We'll see if social media can keep the fires burning long enough to get this recall on the ballot.

Monday, June 6, 2016

New Jersey: Is Bayonne recall "gross miscalculation"?

Interesting discussion of Bayonne Mayor James Davis recall -- it notes that the change in law for how many signatures are required to get a recall on ballot from voter turnout to registered voters has killed the use of the recall in Hudson County (and though not mentioned, really in New Jersey as a whole). There have been only two successful ones in in Hudson County -- one in North Bergen, one in West New York that resulted in the same official winning reelection.

The result is that the recall against Davis seems like a waste of time that could have been used to have taken power in other ways.

Colorado: Post-recall Jefferson School Board praised for end of strife


California: Former Yorba Linda Water District Board Member calls for recall of current board

A recent water rate hike and an alleged lack of transparency has led former Board Member Mark Abramowitz to call for a recall.

Massachusetts: Shirley recall provision signed by Governor

Shirley's recall law has been signed by the Governor, giving the town the right to recall Selectmen. A recent fight over a COLA increase for the town administrator seems to have precipitated the push for the new law.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Wisconsin: Sevastopol School principal resigns while board members face recall

Sevastopol School Board Members Bill Behme and President Sue Todey are facing a recall as the school principal who was the target of an investigation resigned. The board previously refused to renew the principal's contract. Petitioners need 740 signatures each.

This is the second recall effort in Sevastopol. A previous attempt to recall board member Jay Zahn and Jane Luebker did not hand in the signatures.

Massachusetts: Norwell Selectmen vote to send recall bylaw to voters

The recall law requires a conviction, admission of a crime or a lack of attendance ( less than 50% of meetings).

10 Petitioners need to make a complaint in person, than they need 10% of registered voters signatures in 60 days.

Oregon: Fairview Mayor and two councilmembers hit with recall effort

Fairview Mayor Ted Tosterud and Councilmembers Ed Bejarana and Tamie Tlustos-Arnold are facing petitions filed by two former city councilors (Ted Kotsakis and Steve Owen). There doesn't seem to be a listed reason yet for the recall effort, though Kostaskis quit part way through his term in 2015. Owen was the senior member of the council, quit two months later. The two councilmembers facing the recall were appointed to replace them. Tosterud was a strong supporter of Kotsakis.

Tlistos-Arnold is the Republican nominee for an Oregon State Senate seat.

Petitioners need 419 signatures.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Venezuela: National Electoral Council postpones meeting on whether to allow recall

The recall effort against President Nicolas Maduro, which has collected 1.85 million signatures (they need 197,000) is waiting for the National Electoral Council to hold a meeting with opposition leaders.

Electoral authorities claim that 10,000 of the signatures are forgeries, but that is thought to be a delaying effort. If the election is delayed until 2017 a deputy gets the position, rather than have a replacement race.

Petitioners still need 4 million signatures if they get past this stage.

Michigan: Lowell Mayor recall on November 8 ballot

The recall against Mayor Jeff Aloft is on the November ballot, with an issue of Aloft's vote voting to hire a special legal counsel. Aloft is his second term. -- Lowell Light & Power Board Chairman Greg Canfield is running against him.

Nevada: Activist who led effort against Republican Speaker indicted

Some fallout from the efforts against the Republican Speaker in 2015, which led to a failed recall attempt. Here, one of the Republican activists, Tony Dane, who owned a robocalling business was indicted on 11 felony charges.

Arizona: Signatures handed in for recall of Acacia Councilwoman

Signatures were handed in against Councilwoman Vicki Hunt. Petitioners need 478, they handed in 798 and hope to be on the November 8 ballot. The issue is "increasing costs to taxpayers" and transparency and financial waste.

California: Lake Forest Recall effort fails

The attempts to recall Mayor Andrew Hamilton, Mayor Pro Tem Scott Voigts and Councilman Dwight Robinson over claims of corruption due to a road project, failed. Petitioners needed 7882 signatures for each. They handed in 8228 for Hamilton, 6690 were verified, 8240 for Robinson of which 6642 were good, and 8170 for Voigts, of which 6634 were valid.

The councilmen claim that two other council members, Adam Nick and Jim Gardner, led the recall effort.

The signature check cost $3.40 per signature, so it will cost the $84,000.

Colorado: Thorton Councilwoman recall attempt fails

The attempt to recall Thorton Councilwoman Janifer Kulmann failed. Petitioners needed 1600 signatures, and did not hand in any. The issue was that Kulmann worked for as a professional engineer for Noble Energy.

Connecticut: Stratford Town Council recall looks to be heading to court

The recall effort against Council Chairwoman Beth Daponte is facing a legal fight, as the Town Attorney is claiming that the recall is illegal under state law. We'll see if this goes anywhere.

Virginia: Recall efforts against Norfolk City Treasurer and Portsmouth Mayor both coming to finish line

The campaign against both Norfolk City Treasurer Anthony Burfoot (4353 signatures) and Portsmouth Mayor Kenneth Wright (7788 signatures) are coming to then end, with petitioners claiming that they should have enough signatures to get the recalls on the ballot.

Wright would face a recall vote, but Burfoot would be under state law, and have to face the rarely used recall trial. We're waiting in anticipation.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

California: SF Mayoral recall attempt rejected based on timing

The Department of Elections has rejected an attempt to recall Mayor Ed Lee until July over a timing issue, which petitioners claim will make it very hard to get on the November ballot. SF has a six month grace period between elections and the start of a recall. The petitioners are claiming that Lee was appointed in 2011, but since he was just reelected and the recall is only referring to the most recent election, the Department is undoubtedly going to prevail here. We've seen this before (notably Portland's Mayor) and I can't see any court ruling otherwise.

Petitioners need about 44,718 signatures to get the recall on the ballot.