Have you noticed the number of recall elections and threats of recall elections that are swirling around? What the heck is going on?
• Mayor Satish Hiremath and three members of the Oro Valley Town Council are facing a recall because some feel they voted the wrong way on a decision to add the Hilton El Conquistador golf course and recreational facilities to the town’s portfolio of amenities.
• There is a recall effort in place to unseat Nogales Mayor John Doyle that is reportedly driven by a local faction loyal to the previous mayor whom Doyle defeated in the last election.
• There is even an effort underway by a former employee of the Tucson Unified School District to recall three of the five members of the TUSD School Board over a job action more than several years old.
I did some checking and found the following text about the pros and cons of recall elections from the National Conference of State Legislators:
Supporters of the recall maintain that it provides a way for citizens to retain control over elected officials who are not representing the best interests of their constituents, or who are unresponsive or incompetent. This view holds that an elected representative is an agent or a servant and not a master.
Opponents argue that it can lead to an excess of democracy, that the threat of a recall election lessens the independence of elected officials, that it undermines the principle of electing good officials and giving them a chance to govern until the next election and that it can lead to abuses by well-financed special interest groups.
Based on these descriptions, I think recalls are overused. In none of the three examples of current recall efforts do I believe those facing recall are “unresponsive or incompetent.” As for “representing the best interests of their constituents,” I guess beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder. Elections have consequences.
By contrast, it is my opinion that “special interests” are behind all three of the recall efforts mentioned above. The National Conference of State Legislators web site documents that there have been 14 state-level recall efforts since 1990. Of the total, 11 recalls came from just two states: California and Wisconsin, two states notorious for over-the-top special interest political activism.
There should be a profound distinction between an election and a recall. Recalls are expensive and divisive. Recalls sap community energy away from doing the people’s business and generally put the focus on one issue. Recalls should never be “do-overs” for elections (the “excess of democracy” noted above). The time to turn out an incumbent elected official with whom you might disagree is the next regularly scheduled election.