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Posted: 5/14/2003 6:54:41 AM EDT
Well, I guess it is bad tool when it gets rid of person you side with, and good one if it goes if it gets rid of a person you oppose. Davis has had 6 years to screw things up in Calif. He has turned the state of Calif, into the state of confusion.
]Los Angeles Times: Davis Recall Bid Misuses a Good Tool[/url]

Davis Recall Bid Misuses a Good Tool
By Raphael J. Sonenshein
Raphael J. Sonenshein is a political scientist at Cal State Fullerton.

May 14, 2003

Every California governor since Pat Brown has seen people take to the streets to
gather signatures in an attempt to force a recall election. All of those efforts
have failed.

This year, opponents of Gov. Gray Davis hope to buck the odds. They have until
Sept. 2 to collect 895,158 valid signatures of registered voters (12% of the
vote in the last governor's election, in November). If they succeed, an election
will be scheduled asking voters whether Davis should be recalled. Buoyed by
promised financial backing from Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Vista), recall promoters
are being taken seriously.

Let's just imagine that recall backers are able to gather enough valid
signatures. What few realize is just how weird a recall election for a partisan
office would be.

Here's how the process would work: If sufficient signatures were collected more
than six months before the next scheduled election, a special election would be
held, at an estimated cost of $25 million. If less than six months remained, the
recall would be held at the next scheduled election.

The recall ballot would have two parts: the recall question itself — "Shall Gray
Davis be recalled from the office of governor?" — and a list of candidates to
replace the governor if the recall is approved. If a majority of the voters
chose "yes" on the recall question, the votes for the candidates would be
tallied. Only those who voted on the first question — whether yes or no — would
have their votes counted for the second question. No matter how large the field,
the candidate with the most votes would become governor.

The next governor could be virtually anybody. The requirements to get on the
ballot are weak. There's no limit to the number of candidates. There's no party
primary to winnow out the crackpots and those with narrow constituencies.
There's no runoff between the top two candidates to find a majority winner. If
there are, say, 10 candidates on the ballot, one of them could win,
theoretically, with just a little more than 10% of the vote.

The recall process is simply not designed to be a continuation of a partisan
conflict by other means. It is not designed to rerun the previous election and
come to a different result. Rather, it is designed to be like the ejector seat
in a jet fighter plane — a risky last resort worth the consequences.

The recall works best for a nonpartisan election in a community where a
disastrous elected official has generated not only opposition but consensus on a
replacement. Take the city of South Gate. Ruled by a corrupt clique of
officeholders, South Gate voters turned their leaders out in a recall election
in January and replaced them with activists who had led the charge for reform.
Clearly it was time to press the ejector button.

At the state level, misusing the recall process could backfire for the GOP.
Wouldn't it make more sense to let Davis and the Democrats take the heat for the
budget crisis and lose the next scheduled election?

What's more, Republicans would need to rally around a consensus candidate,
preferably a moderate. But will conservative Republicans be any happier to back
a moderate in the recall election than they were to vote for Richard Riordan in
the 2002 primary? And what about Issa? Having paid for the recall, is he going
to step aside for another Republican?

A recall also could be counterproductive for Republicans if it is seen as
partisan. If there is a special election, Republicans will have to explain why
they are forcing taxpayers to spend $25 million in the middle of a budget

If the election takes place in March 2004, Democratic turnout would be boosted
by a crowded presidential primary. In the admittedly unlikely event that a Davis
recall leads to his replacement by another Democrat — one who would not be
term-limited in 2006 — Republicans would surely regret having achieved the

Meanwhile, even Democrats who dislike Davis have to worry about the recall. Do
they really want to risk losing the governorship? Should they run one or more
candidates in the election, just in case Davis is recalled — or would that
constitute a premature admission of defeat? Do they run a bizarre "ticket" that
asks people to vote against recalling Davis but to also vote for a Democrat to
replace him in case the recall succeeds? Will the long line of ambitious
Democrats step aside for a consensus candidate?

These questions remind us why we have party primaries and general elections. Out
of the stew of ambition and talent, a candidate emerges from each party and then
faces the candidate of the other party.

The tools of democracy are marvelous things when used for what they do best.
Applied to a statewide partisan office where the officeholder is highly
unpopular but no danger to the community's survival, and where there is and can
be no consensus replacement agreed upon by the parties, the recall becomes a
calamity. It's tempting to reshape tools of direct democracy as potent weapons
for never-ending partisan battles, but it's the wrong way to go.

Copyright 2003 Los Angeles Times
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