Thursday, October 11, 2007

Easy? I don't recall

There are few things more misunderstood in the discussion on the upcoming appointed chief ballot measure than the procedure for recalling an elected official. I keep hearing that it's easier to do a recall election that it is to get an appointed chief fired. Most people don't understand or severely underestimate the effort and expense involved in a recall. It is a very high bar.

First off according to the city charter there are 60 days to collect the names, addresses, and voter registration numbers of at least 30% of the number of registered voters that voted in the last chiefs elections. Roughly 9,500 people voted in the May 2004 chiefs election. That means you have to collect at least 2850 valid signatures with addresses and voter registration number. Figure there will be some spoiled petitions, ineligible voters, etc., and the effort must collect 3000 signatures to be on the safe side. I have researched the results of many petition drives, and the cost has been from a low of about $10 per signature up to almost $100. Let's assume that we are very lucky and can do it for the $10 figure. We are talking $30,000 to get enough valid, verified signatures with addresses and voter registration information.

After they are collected, the city clerk (who does the duties of city secretary) has 30 days to certify the petitions. The official (the chief in this case) would then be notified, at which time he has 15 days to decide whether or not to resign. If he choses not to resign, then an election is scheduled by the city council not sooner then 30 days later. The city charter says that the election should be scheduled no more than 90 days from that date, but election code throws a monkey wrench into that because according to Section 41.001 of the election code, an election must be held on one of two uniform election dates. There is an exception for emergencies but an emergency election must be approved by the governor. That means that if every thing goes right it will probably take 135 days to hold the recall election. If not, it could take almost a year until you could vote the rascal out of office.

Then there is the expense of campaigning and getting the people out to vote. The election itself will cost the city significant money. If it's a close election, there will be a recount. After close to a year, after thousands of dollars in expense, you finally might get the rascal kicked out of office.

Some how that doesn't meet my definition of easy.

1 comment:

  1. JWT makes some fine points, but the process is more difficult yet. Let us take the example from Tony Massaro's "Viewpoints" today. We elect a Chief who turns out to have run under false colors, and the day after election directs his officers to ignore immigration status of persons arrested, making us a "Sanctuary City", which outrages voters.

    By Charter, no recall of an elected official can even begin for the first six months of a term. The process is then much as described in the article, a slight additional difficulty being that to each petition "there shall be attatched an affidavit, of the circulator thereof, stating the number of signers to such part of the petition and that the signature was genuine, was made in the presence of the affiant...". Just makes the process of physically collecting valid signatures a bit more difficult to accomplish.

    Then, assuming there is a valid reason for recall, and there is a potential that 3,000, more or less, voters are willing to sign, we have to hope the first person to get to the City Secretary's office is not only outraged, but has the wherewithal to make it happen by the (very difficult) numbers, as Sec. 48, "no officer shall be subject to more than one recall election during a term of office".

    Worth a mention, assuming all these difficulties are met, once the "rascal" is out, a process that could easily take a year, we are left with a vacant office, one with no clear line of interim succession, which in the elected system can only be filled by another election, which barring an emergency declaration by the Governer, will be on the NEXT uniform election date, about another six months.

    Over the years, I have agreed with Tony far more often than disagree, but on this issue, there may be harder things to do than recall a city official, but I wouldn't call it "easy" by any stretch.