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Senator Pushes Recall Elections on the 2013 Legislative Agenda

By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter

MONTGOMERY—A pre-filed bill in the State Senate would provide a mechanism for recall elections in Alabama.

“I think we have to be accountable to the voters every year not just every four years,” said the bill’s sponsor Senator Minority Leader Roger Bedford (D-Russellville).

In fact, 19 states have recall laws as a part of their state’s constitution.

Recently, first-term Republican Governor Scott Walker of Wisconsin survived a statewide recall election. The 44-year-old Walker is the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election.

Recall elections are not new they date back as far as Aristotle’s Constitution of Athens.

Simply put recall is a procedure that allows citizens to remove and replace a public official before the end of a term of office. Recall differs from impeachment. Recall being a political device while impeachment is a legal process.

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Under Bedford’s bill grounds for initiating a recall petition against an office holder would include any of the following actions during an incumbent’s term of office: Malfeasance or nonfeasance, lack of physical or mental fitness, incompetence or violation of an oath of office.

According to the proposed legislation the recall of an elected state officials would follow these minimum requirements: Qualified electors of the state or any judicial or legislative district may petition for the recall of any elected official after their first in office.

“We wanted to wait until after the first year to let the passions of the elections die down,” said Bedford.

A petition must be filed with the Secretary of State demanding the recall of the incumbent. Within 90 days after filing with the Secretary of State, the recall petition must be signed by electors equalling at least 25 percent of the vote cast for the office at the last preceding election in the state or district which the incumbent represents.

If the Secretary of State determines that a sufficient number of signatures have been obtained within the 90-day period, the Secretary of State will call a recall election for the sixth Tuesday following the determination.

From that point the procedure would follow the basic guidelines of any state election.

Bedford says he understand it will be a struggle to get the law passed by a Republican super majority but says, “I understand it is an education process to get a fundamental change in election laws but I think its time has come.”

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If 2011 is an example, then many people agree with Senator Bedford.

According to a December 27, 2011 report by Joshua Spivak, “In 2011, there were at least 150 recall elections in the United States. Of these, 75 officials were recalled, and nine officials resigned under threat of recall. Recalls were held in 17 states in 73 different jurisdictions. Michigan had the most recalls (at least 30). The year set a record for number of state legislator recall elections (11 elections) beating with previous one-year high (three elections). Three jurisdictions adopted the recall in 2011.

Of recall elections, 52 were for city council, 30 were for mayor, 17 were for school board, 11 were for state legislators, one was for prosecuting attorney (York County, Nebraska). The largest municipality to hold a recall was Miami-Dade County, Florida for mayor.”

Spivak a well respected journalist concludes “the most obvious sign of political activism has been the unprecedented use of recall elections.”

Many credit technology with empowering this new voter activism, especially email and social media.

Internet news sites have played a big part in placing information about leaders alleged misdeeds and failures in front of the people.

Technology has also made the collection of signatures for recalls much easier to acquire. A single person armed with a spreadsheet of registered voters and a smartphone can start a mini-revolution.

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Bedford says he believes “a recall vote, is a way to hold elected officials accountable for their words and actions.”

He says that recall is an effective tool of representative democracy that Alabamians would embrace if given the chance to vote on it by the Republican majority.

Written By

Bill Britt is editor-in-chief at the Alabama Political Reporter and host of The Voice of Alabama Politics. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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