Sunday, February 17, 2019

Hawaii: Hawaii County Recall law discussed in potential charter change

I (and Ballotpedia) have been trying to keep track of how many states have recalls on the local level. The answer is not a simple one, but we had settled on 38 states. But that seems to be off by at least one -- Hawaii's Hawaii County seems to have a recall provision -- Article XII of the charter seemingly adopted in 1979. The recall requires signatures totaling 25% of turnout and petitioners have between 90-120 days (depending on the position). It has one interesting feature -- there is what we can call a turnout veto (other countries have it like Romania and Warsaw, Poland). The vote must top 50% of the vote cast for that office in the last election for it to work (meaning, if 10,000 were cast for all candidates in a 2018 election, the recall must have 5001 votes cast -- either for or against -- for the recall to count). So supporters of the official are usually better off not turning out at all.

This issue came up in an oped/letter from former County Councilwoman Brenda Ford about the Hawaii County Charter Commission, which is considering moving from a two-year to a four-year term. Note that the same issue of increase term length was a motivator in the adoption of the recall in some jurisdictions in the Progressive Era.

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