Comparative analysis of the frequency of mayoral recalls, 2009-2010
By Leslie Graves
In 2010, there were 57 mayoral recall attempts in 19 states, while in 2009, there were 23 mayoral recall attempts in 12 states.
In all, in 2010, 15 mayors were either recalled or resigned right before the recall election could take place. This compares to 2009, when 5 mayors were either recalled or resigned right before the recall election could take place.
The breakdown for 2010 was:
- 26 attempts were abandoned
- 2 were judicially invalidated
- 1 mayor resigned
- 14 mayors in 9 states were recalled
- 14 mayors were retained
The breakdown for 2009 was:
- 14 recall efforts were abandoned
- 2 were judicially invalidated
- 2 mayors resigned
- 3 mayors were recalled; 2 in New Jersey (Troiano and Sutphen and one in Louisiana (Hunter)
- 2 mayors were retained.
Terms used in chart:
- Abandoned: This recall effort did not result in a recall election because either (a) supporters of the recall did not gather sufficient signatures to bother submitting them to election officials or (b) supporters of the recall did submit signatures, but the relevant election officials invalidated enough of the signatures to reduce the number at hand below the legal number required to trigger a recall.
- Judicial invalidation: This recall effort did not result in a recall election because a judge determined that the recall question should not go on the ballot. This can happen for several reasons; (a) election officials certify the recall question for the ballot but the recall target goes to court to challenge the validity of some of the signatures that election officials had certified as valid, and (b) in states where specific types of grounds must be given before a recall can take place, a judge might determine that the grounds alleged by the recall petitioners do not satisfy the "grounds requirement."
- Resignation: This refers to instances where a mayor resigns before the end of his or her term, after a recall campaign has been launched against the mayor.
|Not on ballot||On ballot||Not on ballot||On ballot|
|Abandoned||Judicial invalidation||Resignation||Recalled||Retained||Abandoned||Judicial invalidation||Resignation||Recalled||Retained|
|Total attempts in 2010: 57||Total attempts in 2009: 23|
|Mayors out of office through recall or pre-recall resignation: 15||Mayors out of office through recall or pre-recall resignation: 5|
- There are several obstacles to collecting comprehensive information about mayoral recall elections. These obstacles are (1) there are about 36,000 municipal and town/township governments in the United States, (2) local recall elections of mayors are administered by the election officials of the county within which the city/town is situated, (3) a number of the more than 3,000 counties in the United States still as of January 2011 do not have a website and of those that do have a website, a significant number do not use their websites to avail themselves of the opportunity to post election results, and (4) there is no state in which county election officials or municipalities with a mayor subject to recall are required to report the results of any local recall elections to a central authority that can compile a database. Consequently, Ballotpedia's information about 2009 and 2010 mayoral recall elections is based in the first instance on a Rube Goldberg-ish system of Google news alerts and similar online research functions which, however, have been faithfully applied through 2009 and 2010 by staff and volunteers to the extent that we feel confident that we have captured at least 80% of mayoral recalls that have taken place in 2009 and 2010, and probably more. Questions regarding methodology can be sent to Leslie.Graves@ballotpedia.org, as can information about missed mayoral recalls.