Recall of Public Officials
Recall Elections: Is Two Years Too Long to Wait to Vote Someone Out of Office?


“Recall was never meant to be used just because you don’t like the way the other side is governing,” 

Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of the Tea Party Patriots, June 5, 2012


The New York State Constitution should be amended to establish a recall process, which grants power to the voters to remove an elected state official.

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In the 19 states that allow recall elections, 18 do so through an article in their state constitution.  Montana, being the only exception, permits recall through state law.

The New York State Constitution provides for the election of Senators and Assembly Members (Article III, Section 2), Governor and Lieutenant Governor (Article IV, Section 1), Comptroller and Attorney General (Article V, Section 1), and Supreme Court Justices, (Article VI, Section 6). 

However, removal of elected state officials by recall is not contained within the New York State Constitution or any New York State law.

A constitutional amendment is necessary to authorize the use of recall in New York State for all statewide elected officers, Senators, Assembly Members, and Supreme Court Justices.  

The basis for recall is the well accepted maxim that voters should retain the right of control over their elected officials. No one would seriously dispute that a candidate for public office may be elected for several reasons, some of which may bear very little relation to the candidate's ability to perform public duties effectively.

Moreover, recent experience and polling evidence suggest that voters may wish to remove elected officials for unacceptable behavior, even if their colleagues are reluctant to do so or before they are convicted of a criminal act. Recall also recognizes that a fixed term of office may mitigate full accountability to the electorate for policy choices.  The possibility for removal by the voters advances accountability, and arguably is a disincentive to corruption and a way of encouraging more responsive representation.

Another strong argument for establishing recall in New York is that it provides an important check on the power of special interests in the State.  As for the argument that recall can be abused for frivolous reasons or proposals, it must be kept in mind that the voters can vote against recalling an official if they are unsure. In fact, one could argue that the voters should be trusted to act in the public interest. In sum, direct democracy measures such as recall can empower New York citizens whenever their elected officials ignore their concerns. Though recall efforts for judges are quite rare, a distinction may be made for them, as recall (or its threat) may compromise the independence sought by providing them with very long terms of office. (See Joshua Spivak. "Bird is Not the Word: Judicial Recalls Are Very Rare" Hugh Carey Center, Wagner College (2008)

Recall is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote, before his or her term has expired.  The process is initiated by a specified number of voters signing a petition to remove an elected official.  Then a recall election is held, where voters must decide by a majority vote whether to keep the elected official in office, or remove the elected official from office prior to the expiration of his or her term.  

Recall is not currently allowed in New York State for the removal of elected state officials.  Nineteen other states currently permit the recall elections of elected state officials.  The Commonwealth of Virginia permits recall trials for elected state officials.

A constitutional amendment is necessary to establish a recall process for all statewide elected officers, Senators, Assembly Members, and Supreme Court Justices.  The number of signatures required would vary by office; with at least 12 percent of the last vote required for a statewide office (with signatures from at least five counties equal to one percent of the last vote in that county for that office), and at least 20 percent of the last vote required for the office of Senator, Assembly Member, or Supreme Court Justice.

The adoption of recall would grant voters additional control over their elected officials. 

New York Times
Friday, June 8, 2012
A group seeking to recall Gov. Rick Snyder announced Thursday that it had ended the effort after Gov. Scott Walker’s victory in Wisconsin’s recall election. The group, Michigan Rising, said it would stop collecting signatures, noting...
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New York Times
Monica Davey
Tuesday, June 5, 2012
WAUKESHA, Wis. — Gov. Scott Walker, whose decision to cut collective bargaining rights for most public workers set off a firestorm in a state usually known for its political civility, easily held on to his job on Tuesday, becoming the first...
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A selection of relevant solutions from other states.

According to the National Conference of State Legislators (NCSL), 19 states permit the recall elections of state officials.  In 18 of those states, recall is permitted by the state constitution.  In Montana recall is permitted by state law.  Virginia law allows for recall by trial rather than election.  Under Virginia law, a circuit court decides whether an official will be removed from office after sufficient petition signatures are collected. Two state governors have been removed by recall: Gray Davis (California, 2003) and Lynn J. Frazier (North Dakota, 1921). Recall campaigns to remove state judges have raised debates about the effect of this practice on judicial independence. Since 2003, there have been 24 recall elections for state legislators in five states: California (8), Wisconsin (5), Michigan (4), Oregon (3), Idaho (2), Arizona (1) and Washington (1). One of these, in Wisconsin in 2011, involved nine different incumbents, six of whom were Republicans; all others were focused on a single member. The 2011 effort in Wisconsin arose from a dispute over the adoption by the state GOP of a policy curbing the reach of collective bargaining for public employees. Two sitting Republican Senators were recalled.(



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