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The office of sheriff
In the United States, the sheriff functions as the chief law enforcement officer in a county. A sheriff and his or her deputies enforce criminal laws or summons private citizens on behalf of the county court and perform other functions to help keep the peace. In many counties, the sheriff is a county official who provides law enforcement support to the county court. Sheriff's deputies may staff and maintain a county jail, transport inmates to court, provide security in the courtroom, and serve warrants or other legal process documents on behalf of the courts.
Sheriff's deputies often provide law enforcement assistance to areas outside of town or city limits not served by a local police force. Agreements between towns, cities and counties define the scope of duties a county sheriff will provide. Most sheriffs are elected by the residents of the county where they serve. Generally, a sheriff has the power to appoint their own deputies.
Placing a sheriff recall vote on the ballot
An application or other document must be filed with the appropriate county official to begin a recall effort. The county official determines the number of signatures needed qualify for a recall election. Generally the number of signatures to be obtained corresponds to a certain percentage of the votes cast during the last election for the office of sheriff.
Depending on when a recall effort begins, the time frame to obtain the needed signatures varies. Once the required signatures are obtained and submitted, the signatures must be verified. In some counties, a certain percentage of signatures must be obtained from individuals who voted in the last election and now want to see the sheriff removed from office.
Laws governing the recall of a sheriff vary among counties in the United States. Some states, such as Arizona and Colorado, provide for the recall of any elected public officeholder in their state constitutions. Some states only allow a recall vote to proceed for specific grounds. Georgia's Constitution allows the recall of local and state officials in an elected office. However, the grounds for a recall must relate to conduct which adversely affects the public, violates the oath of office or a failure to perform duties prescribed by law, among others.
Some counties specify a special election must be held within a short time frame after the signatures supporting a recall vote have been verified. In other counties, a recall is placed on the ballot during the next regularly scheduled election.
Recall elections, especially when they require a special election, can be expensive. Taxpayers foot the bill for the costs of the election. Individuals or groups must pay the costs to bring the recall effort to a vote.
In the case of the effort to recall Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi in San Francisco County, the group spearheading the recall, San Francisco Women for Accountability, estimated it would cost them approximately $500,000 and take as long as year to have a recall vote placed on the ballot.
Though efforts to recall a sheriff have increased in recent years, it is not common for sitting sheriff to be voted out of office through a recall election. Many recall efforts fail due to a lack of money or a failure to put forth a viable candidate to replace the sheriff being recalled.
- Robert Pickell recall, Genesee County, Michigan (2014)
- Terry Maketa recall, El Paso County, Colorado (2014)
- Frank Rivero recall, Lake County, California (2013)
- Joe Arpaio recall, Maricopa County, Arizona (2013)
- Richard Mizzi recall, Arnaudville, Louisiana (2013)
- Jerry Archer recall, Franklin County, Nebraska (2012)
- Phil Wowak recall, Santa Cruz County, California (2012)
- Tom Bosenko recall, Shasta County, California (2012)
- Clarence Dupnik recall, Pima County, Arizona (2011)
- Randy Peck recall, Sedgwick County, Colorado (2011)
- Daryl Anderson recall, Lincoln County, Montana, 2009
- Deborah Trout recall, Hunterdon County, New Jersey, 2009
- Wally Krenzke recall, Price County, Wisconsin, 2009