By Joey Kennedy
Alabama Political Reporter
Imagine if Alabama allowed voters to recall elected officials, like the governor, House speaker and state Supreme Court chief justice because they’re doing bad stuff.
We’d probably be preparing for a pretty big election right now.
But Alabama lawmakers (and state officials) have never been too anxious to give Alabama voters that kind of authority.
Because they’re cowards. Just like they won’t let voters have the power of lawmaking, through initiative and referendum.
Oh, every so often a bill is introduced for recall or initiative and referendum. And every single time, not every so often, the bill is dead on arrival.
The shame is that it took a 73-year-old governor copping feels of an aide half his age to initiate the current effort at recall.
As reported by Alabama Political Reporter’s Brandon Moseley, state Rep. Will Ainsworth (R-Guntersville) said in a statement recently that “I, along with 30 co-sponsors have introduced legislation HB501 that would provide Alabamians with the opportunity to recall any sitting constitutional officer of the State of Alabama, or any member of the Alabama Legislature.
Continued Ainsworth, as reported by Moseley: “Our State finds itself at a crossroad. My legislation is not aimed at one person, office, or political persuasion; rather, this is a pursuit of honest government that has too often eluded our state. Criminality, or lack thereof, should not be the sole standard by which we evaluate the leaders of this state. Alabamians deserve and expect leadership based in integrity. Should a leader’s integrity and trust be lost, the people of this great state should not be left without recourse.”
I don’t know if we’re at a crossroad as much as we’re at uncrossed legs.
The important question, though, is why does Gov. Robert Bentley’s junior high school-like sexual indiscretions warrant a push for recall, but Speaker Mike Hubbard’s indictment on 23 felony counts of corruption not do the same? Or why isn’t Chief Justice Roy Moore’s flaunting of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on marriage equality the catalyst for allowing recall?
Sure, Bentley’s actions embarrassed the state and continue to do so, but, really, it’s not the first time Alabama’s been embarrassed by an elected official. Indeed, it’s practically a state characteristic.
We’ve had drunk governors, governors who stand in a schoolhouse door and at least one governor standing in the “bedroom” door. With that door open. (But next time, we’re told, it’ll be closed!)
Alabama voters do need the ability to recall a particularly inept or corrupt elected official, just as they need the right to propose legislation when the Legislature itself won’t do its job. Ainsworth said next year, he’ll propose initiative and referendum.
Even Ainsworth’s recall bill won’t make it easy to recall an elected official. Nor should it. Recall is a serious step, and in the end, it’d be up to voters to decide if they wanted to recall a perverted governor, a corrupt speaker or a loony Supreme Court justice.
Under Ainsworth’s bill, a recall election would be held only if a petition is signed by 30 percent of the voters in the last election. The recall would be decided by a majority of voters in a special election.
That’s a significant hurdle. Indeed, with today’s apathetic electorate, it’s near impossible.
And it’s because of today’s apathetic voters that we find ourselves in the mess we’re in. Many voters simply don’t research the issues and vote for the candidate who represents their best interests. Instead, they respond to hot-button issues: Let’s get rid of immigrants; let’s keep two people who love each other from being able to marry or have equal rights; let’s keep the black man down; let’s decide what a woman can do with her body.
Or instead of simply voting stupid, they stay at home and don’t vote at all.
Ainsworth’s bill is just as dead as any of the others previously introduced. It’s DOA for sure. Too late in the session. Too many cowards.
For the most part, we get what we deserve. And, sadly, we deserve no less.
Joey Kennedy, a Pulitzer Prize-winner, writes a column every Wednesday for Alabama Political Reporter. Email: [email protected]