Recall elections in 2014: From domestic partner benefits to stray dog shooting

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June 17, 2014

By Ballotpedia staff

Recall campaigns are a polarizing process. Some see them as a means of political accountability. Others view the efforts as frivolous wastes of taxpayer dollars. Either way, so far in 2014 there have been 236 public officials in the United States targeted to be ousted mid-term.

Ballotpedia has compiled a list of the most interesting, contentious and bizarre recall efforts of 2014. No office holder is safe. A school board member from Idaho raised public ire for his view on teachers being allowed to carry guns. A Tennessee city councilman sparked recall proceedings with a proposed domestic partnership law. In North Carolina, a tribal chairman is in trouble after assault charges on a former secretary.

Media coverage has made the public more aware of recalls, a method of direct democracy that's available, in some form, in all but 14 states. Past campaigns have rarely been dull, and nearly always revolve around scandal or controversy.

In June 2012, protesters, political activists and national media outlets flocked to Madison, Wisconsin, to witness a contentious and nationally-publicized recall. Democrats and labor interests collected more than 900,000 valid signatures to initiate a recall campaign against Gov. Scott Walker (R). Only two governors in U.S. history have ever been successfully recalled. Walker was attempting to limit collective bargaining rights, via Act 10. After a dramatic year and four months of intense protests, lawsuits and all-out political warfare, 14 Democratic senators fled the state to avoid the quorum necessary for a vote on Act 10. Walker ultimately defeated Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett (D) and retained his position.

The recall process also garnered national media attention in 2013, when three state senators in Colorado - Angela Giron (D-3), John Morse (D-11) and Evie Hudak (D-19) - were targeted for their support of state gun control legislation that successfully passed in February 2013. Giron and Morse were recalled. Hudak resigned, saying she didn't want taxpayers to bear the financial burden of a third recall election.

Recalls by the numbers

Through the end of May 2014, 126 recall campaigns took place targeting 236 total officials. Municipal officials were the most frequently targeted, combining for 103 (81.7%) of the total recalls. Only 27 (21.4%) of all recalls went to the ballot, with 12 (44.4%) of them succeeding. Thirty-two other recalls did not go to a vote or were otherwise abandoned, while 52 are still underway and nine others are still unofficial. Another seven officials that were targeted for recall resigned. Recalls across the country broke down as follows:

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By status

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Recalls by state

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Recall highlights

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Historical recalls
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The following five recalls were highlighted from across the United States. From concerning to absurd, these recall attempts stood out from our coverage so far in 2014.

Map marker font awesome.svgSteve Youngdahl recall, Lake Pend Oreille School Board, Idaho (2014)

Steve Youngdahl was the target of a recall effort due to his support for arming staff members in Idaho's Lake Pend Oreille School District. Youngdahl proposed a new policy in 2013 that would have allowed district teachers and staff to carry guns as long as they were properly trained and licensed. Recall organizers Tom Bokowy and Jacinda Bokowy were concerned about the presence of guns in schools and cited Youngdahl's use of questionable research in support of the proposal. Youngdahl countered that his proposal included a provision to use fingerprint identification technology called Intelligun to prevent improper weapons use.[1]

Recall supporters submitted 107 petitions over multiple days to the Bonner County Clerk and the recall election was initially approved by election officials in December 2013. The Idaho Secretary of State overturned the county's decision in January 2014 because recall organizers failed to submit the minimum number of petitions in a single batch. State recall law requires a single submission of recall petitions to trigger an election. Supporters declined the opportunity to gather a second round of petitions by a May 2014 deadline due to the tensions created by the recall drive.[2]

Map marker font awesome.svgJames Hightower recall, Benton Harbor, Michigan (2014)

An effort to recall Mayor James Hightower in Benton Harbor, Michigan from his position was launched in October 2013. Supporters of the recall effort have cited Hightower's failure to vote in favor of putting a city income tax proposal on the ballot as the reason for the recall.[3]

After successfully completing the preliminary paperwork, recall proponents ultimately submitted over 700 signatures in January 2014. The county clerk confirmed that at least 402 had been verified, above the 393 required to trigger a recall. A special election for the recall was scheduled for May 6, 2014.[4][5][6] On February 19, 2014, Benton Harbor Commissioner Marcus Muhammad announced that he would challenge Hightower in the May 6 recall election.[7]

In late April 2014, two Benton Harbor residents involved in the recall effort were accused of elections fraud. Edward Pinkney was charged with five counts of elections forgery and six counts of a lesser offense (namely, allowing one person to sign recall petitions more than once). James Cornelius was charged with one count of permitting one person to sign recall petitions more than once and allowing signers to sign petitions outside of his presence. In light of these allegations, County Clerk Sharon Tyler sought a court order requesting a stay of the election.[8][9] On May 1, 2014, Berrien County Trial Court Judge John Dewane granted the injunction delaying the recall election. A trial determining the ultimate fate of the recall effort is expected to be concluded by July 11, 2014.[10][11]

Map marker font awesome.svgChris Anderson recall, Chattanooga, Tennessee (2014)

Chattanooga resident Charlie Wysong submitted paperwork in January 2014 to initiate recall proceedings against city councilman Chris Anderson.[12][13] At issue was a domestic partner benefit law championed by Anderson and opposed by Wysong and other recall supporters. Other Anderson opponents claimed the District 7 councilman had distanced himself from the district's black community and had generally failed to represent the needs of his constituents. Recall proponent Mahmood Abdullah said, "[Anderson] doesn't represent what the people want. His only goal is to boost homosexuality." Local pastor Alfred Johnson has claimed to be the leader of the recall effort.[12]

In response to the recall effort, Anderson, one of the first openly gay city council members in the state, said, "I knew when I ran for public office that I would have to make decisions that were politically difficult. If you want to recall me over the equal rights of the public servants that work so hard for the City of Chattanooga, bring it on."[12]

In early May 2014, the election commission announced that it had found only 1,179 of the signatures submitted to be valid, short of 1,600 needed to trigger a recall election. Anderson said, "I think, not in my mind, but in their talking points and in their script, it was about bigotry and hatred and I don't have time for those kind of people." Recall proponents maintained that they would continue their efforts. Supporter Gil Shropshire said, "Our next step is that we're going to challenge this voting list [against which signatures were verified] because it needs to be purged ... if it's purged the way it's supposed to be purged, we have more than enough signatures." Elections administrator Kerry Steelman said it was unlikely that a recount or purge would occur. Steelman claimed that a purge had been completed in 2011.[14]

Map marker font awesome.svgMayor and City Council, Filer, Idaho

The fatal shooting of a stray dog has resulted in an effort to recall Mayor Rick Dunn and city council members Ruby Hite, Joe Lineberry, Don Barkley and Russell “Bud” Sheridan in Filer, Idaho from their positions.[15][16][17]

The recall effort was triggered by the mayor's and council's failure to terminate the employment of a police officer, Tarek Hassani, who fatally shot a dog running loose in a west Filer neighborhood in February 2014.[15][16][17]

The administrator of the Facebook page promoting the recall effort said, "We are doing this because it is just, and our right to see the future that our town deserves. ... We feel [city officials] are not listening to us." The identify of the Facebook page administrator is not known.[15][16][17]

The mayor and city council were sworn into office on January 7, 2014. Because state law prohibits the recall of officials in the first 90 days of their terms, recall proponents submitted valid prospective petitions on April 8, 2014. Recall proponents had to collect 20 valid signatures for the prospective petitions. Recall supporters will need to submit 201 valid signatures by June 23, 2014 to trigger a recall. In the event that all members of the city council and the mayor are recalled, the Office of the Governor would appoint enough council members to establish a quorum. Those members would then appoint the remaining council members and the mayor.[15][16][17][18][19][20]

Map marker font awesome.svgPaul Brooks recall, Lumbee Tribe, North Carolina

A recall effort against Paul Brooks marks the first time in history that members of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina have attempted to remove their tribal chairman. Trouble for Brooks began in 2013 when there was a dispute between himself and tribal council members over the release and accessibility of financial documents. His standing worsened in November 2013 when he was accused of assaulting the former secretary of the tribal council while she was posting an explanation of the recall process of an elected official.[21] He was charged with misdemeanor assault, though the charges were eventually dropped.[22] Additionally, Brooks was found guilty in the Lumbee Supreme Court on six contempt of court charges.[23]

The group Lumbee Revolution is leading the recall effort and officially launched their campaign in January 2014. That same month, Eric Locklear, who is spearheading the initiative, lost his home to arson, an act he believes is tied to his work on the recall. Locklear was not home when the fire started, however, neighbors reported seeing an "unusual" person fleeing the area.[24]

According to tribal rules, only registered, or "enrolled," tribal members who voted in the November 2012 Tribal Election - approximately 5,000 members - are able to participate in the recall campaign. Lumbee Law requires that, in order to recall Brooks, 20 percent of those who voted in November 2012 must sign a recall petition requesting an election. If enough signatures are collected and verified, then a recall election is held. If the majority of 30 percent of those who voted in the November 2012 election approve the recall, then Brooks would be removed from office.[25][26] Brooks has denied any wrongdoing, saying, "I am working in the best interest of the Lumbee Tribe to the best of my ability. I will continue to work to move our government in a positive direction."[27]

References

  1. Bonner County Daily Bee, "School gun proposal prompts recall drive," October 19, 2013
  2. Bonner County Daily Bee, "Procedural error ends Youngdahl recall drive," January 17, 2014
  3. WSJM, "Hightower Again A Recall Target," October 24, 2013
  4. WNDU.com, "Petition filed to recall Benton Harbor's mayor," January 13, 2014
  5. ABC 57 News, "Mayor faces possible recall, election to be held in May," February 12, 2014
  6. WSBT 22, "Benton Harbor mayor to face recall election," February 11, 2014
  7. Fox28, "Benton Harbor commissioner announces his candidacy for mayor," February 19, 2014
  8. South Bend Tribune, "Stay sought of Benton Harbor recall vote," April 25, 2014
  9. WSJM, "Benton Harbor Mayor Confident Of Win Regardless of Recall Election Date," April 29, 2014
  10. South Bend Tribune, "BH recall vote on hold," May 1, 2014
  11. WSBT.com, "No recall election in Benton Harbor," May 1, 2014
  12. 12.0 12.1 12.2 Times Free Press, "Petition to recall Chris Anderson will be considered next month," January 27, 2014
  13. The Recall Elections Blog, "Tennessee: First openly gay councilman in state facing recall threats over domestic partner benefit law," January 27, 2014
  14. WDEF.com, "Anderson Recall Fails, But Neighborhood Group Says 'Its Not Over," May 7, 2014
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 15.3 MagicValley.com, "Residents Prepare to Recall Filer Mayor, City Council," March 30, 2014
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 KTVB.com, "Handling of dog shooting in Filer leads to recall effort," March 31, 2014
  17. 17.0 17.1 17.2 17.3 KMVT.com, "Residents Start Recall Effort," April 1, 2014
  18. KMVT.com, "Filer Mayor and City Council Recall Effort Underway," April 8, 2014
  19. Boise Weekly, "Filer Dog Shooting Makes International Headlines, Prompts City Recall Effort," April 10, 2014
  20. MagicValley.com, "UPDATE: Filer Residents File to Recall Mayor, Entire Council," April 8, 2014
  21. Fay Observer, "Members of the Lumbee Tribe seek to recall chairman," January 17, 2014
  22. Indianz.com, "Assault charge dropped against chairman of Lumbee Tribe," January 23, 2014
  23. Laurinburgexchange.com, "Tribal Council updated on recall push," January 17, 2014
  24. Indianz.com, "Organizer of Lumbee Tribe recall effort loses home to arson," January 21, 2014
  25. Robesonian.com, "Meeting on Tuesday to advance recall effort," February 7, 2014
  26. FayObserver.com, "Members of the Lumbee Tribe seek to recall chairman," January 17, 2014
  27. Publicus.com, "Tribal recall effort seeking signatures," April 2, 2014