Laws governing recall in Alabama

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The laws that govern the conduct of political recalls in Alabama are found in Chapter 44 of Title 11 of Alabama State Code.[1] Under these statutes, municipal commissioners and mayors in any city that has a commissioner form of government are subject to recall. There is also an alternate process called a "request for resignation," which requires fewer signatures to initiate. Both of these processes are outlined below.

There are many different forms and classes of municipal government in Alabama, most of which feature a mayor and an elected city council. An alternative form is called the commission form of government and features an elected board of commissioners instead of a city council. The commissioners have different duties, restrictions, election rules and procedures. The president of the board of commissioners takes the place of a mayor. As of 2014, Alabama's law governing recall only applies to the city of Dothan, because it is the only municipality in the state with a commission form of government. Dothan has elected city commissioners, and recall can be applied against them. In other cities, such as Vincent, there are city council members and recall cannot be applied against them.[2][3][4]

City residents are able to petition for and vote to change their city to a commission form of government, giving them the right to recall their elected officials. This process is described below.

Since recall is unavailable to nearly all cities in Alabama, impeachment, in most cases, is the only option for removing an elected official before a regularly scheduled election. This article features a section providing some information regarding requirements and processes for impeachment.[5]

Commission form

Recall laws and rights in Alabama only apply to cities in which the commission form of government is used, excluding elected officials for counties, special districts, mayor-council cities and statewide positions. Therefore, to enjoy the right of recall, citizens of a city must request to be organized under the commission form of government. This can be done through a signature petition process, resulting, if successful, in an election. The full process is shown below.

Petition

The residents of a city may submit a petition to the appropriate county probate judge or judges seeking to reorganize the city under the commission form of government.

To be valid, the petition must contain the signatures of qualified voters of the city equal to 3 percent of the total city population.

After the 15 day window allowed for investigation, if the probate judge finds the petition sufficient, the mayor of the city must call an election within 40 days.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code Title 11, Chapter 44, Sections 2-6

Election

In the event of the certification of a successful petition, the question put to the voters must take the following form:

Shall the proposition to organize the City (or Town) of _____ under the commission form of government as provided by Title 11, Chapter 44, Article 1 of the Code of Alabama 1975, be adopted? Yes _____ No _____.[6]

If a majority of votes cast are "yes" votes, city officials must notify the Alabama Secretary of State, and the city shall be organized under the commission form of government, in which recall of the elected commissioners is possible.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code Title 11, Chapter 44, Sections 2-6

Recall process

Note: The following process only applies to cities with the commission form of government. As of 2014, Dothan was the only city that had such a government and was the only city with the power of recall in Alabama.

Petition

Petition form

DothanWelcome.jpg

There are no restrictions on when a recall petition can be initiated.[3] Any registered voter may gather signatures for a recall. The petition must include the following text:

To the city clerk. We the following registered voters of _____ (name of municipality) do respectfully request that you instigate an election to be held for the purpose of recalling _____ (name of person) who holds the office of _____ (name of office)[7][6]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code §11-44E-168

Grounds for recall

Those seeking to recall a public official do not need to provide reasons for why they think the person should be removed.[3]

Signatures required

To qualify a recall election for the ballot, at least 30 percent of the registered voters from the most recent election must sign the recall petition and provide their addresses.[7]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code §11-44E-168

Time to collect signatures

There is no time limit for the collection of the required signatures.[3]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code §11-44E-168

Recall elections

Vote to remove

If the petition submitted by recall proponents is found to be sufficient, an election asking voters if they wish to remove the targeted commissioner from office must be scheduled within 30 days of petition certification. If a majority of registered voters approves the recall, the targeted official is removed, and the position is declared vacant.

It is important to note that Alabama Code specifies that "a majority of registered voters," rather than simply a majority of votes cast, is required for the approval of a recall ballot question. This means that a recall question could potentially garner majority approval at an election but fail to become effective due to low voter turnout.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code §11-44E-168

DothanMap.jpg

Vote to replace

If a recall question is approved, the position of the targeted commissioner becomes vacant. State law dictates the process for the filling of a commissioner vacancy in the following way:

Whenever any vacancy shall occur in the office of a commissioner, the remaining members of the board shall order an election to be held not less than 30 nor more than 60 days after the date when such vacancy occurs, at which election a successor to said office shall be elected for the unexpired term[6]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code §11-44-125

Alternative process

An alternative process to an official recall petition effort is provided in the Alabama State Code to remove a commissioner from office. This process is called a "request for resignation." Just as with recall, this process only applies to city commissioners and, as of 2014, can only be done in the city of Dothan. The requirements and process for a successful "request for resignation" are below.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code §11-44-130

Petition process

This process only requires the signatures of 3 percent of the inhabitants of the municipality, according to the last federal census, who are qualified to vote for a successor. Signatures must be accompanied by the citizen's address, precinct and district.

Once the signatures are gathered, the petition is presented to a probate judge, who is responsible for making sure that the petition complies with the law and that the signatures are genuine. If there are problems with the petition, it is sent back to the petitioners, who then have 10 days to fix the issues and resubmit it.[8]

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code §11-44-130

Petition requirements

Although only signatures equaling 3 percent of registered voters of the city, rather than the 30 percent required for a recall, are required, there are several more requirements for the validity of a petition to request resignation than for a straight-forward recall petition. Some of those requirements are below:

  • Signatures must be turned in to a probate judge, rather than the city clerk
  • The probate judge must be paid a fee equal to enough to cover all costs of certifying the petition, as well as an additional amount equal to 20 percent of these costs, which serves as the probate judges payment.
  • The petition must be accompanied by a statement of the reasons for targeting the commissioner in question for removal.

DocumentIcon.jpg See laws: Alabama Code §11-44-130 & Alabama Code §11-44-133

False signatures

Anyone who signs a petition to request the resignation or removal of a commissioner and who is not a registered voter of the city in question, making the signer unqualified to sign the petition, is guilty of a misdemeanor under state law and can be fined up to $300.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code §11-44-132

Recall election

Once the petition is approved, it is submitted to the board of commissioners. If the targeted commissioner does not voluntarily resign before the board's next meeting, the board schedules an election to occur between 30 and 60 days from that meeting. At the election, a majority of voters is required for removal of the commissioner. However, turnout for these elections is also important. The majority in favor of removing the commissioner must be equal to at least half of the number of people who voted in the previous general municipal election. If these conditions are met, the commissioner is removed from office[9].

DocumentIcon.jpg See laws: Alabama Code §11-44-130 & Alabama Code §11-44-134

Vacancy

If only one commissioner is removed from office at the recall election, an interim commissioner will not be appointed. If two or more commissioners are removed at the election, the Alabama Governor must appoint interim commissioners to fill the vacancies until an election is held and voters decide on replacements.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code §11-44-134

Replacement election

If, at the recall election, voters choose to recall the targeted commissioner, a special election to replace him or her must be scheduled for between 14 and 21 days after the recall election.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama Code §11-44-134

Impeachment

Although the recall power is severely limited, Alabama State code does allow for the removal of city officials through impeachment because of "incompetency, malfeasance, misfeasance, or nonfeasance in office and for conduct detrimental to good order or discipline, including habitual neglect of duty." Appointed officials can be removed from their position by the officer who made the appointment. The city council may also remove any city official through a 2/3 vote of the entire council.

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Alabama State Code 11-43-160

Authority

Recall

The power of recall is given to all commission-form cities - which only includes Dothan as of 2014 - under Alabama State Code and applies to the mayor and commissioners of any mayor/commissioner form of government. The code that authorizes the power of recall is granted in Alabama State Code §11-44E-168

Resignation request

The power to submit a petition demanding the resignation of a commissioner is found in Alabama State Code §11-44-130.

History

Statewide recall (2012)

A 2012 bill sponsored by Senator Roger Bedford sought to amend the state's constitution to allow for the recall of all state elected officials, rather than just those on the local level. It was approved by the Constitution, Campaign Finance, Ethics and Elections Committee, though the committee stipulated that additional work would have to be done on the bill before
Ray McAllister, Mayor of Vincent
it was sent to a vote by the full senate. However, the bill ultimately failed and was "indefinitely postponed" on May 9, 2012.[10][11]

The text of the bill is available here: Alabama SB 17, 2012.

Vincent recall (2011)

An attempt to recall the mayor and several city council members in Vincent, Alabama, ended after the Alabama League of Municipalities pointed out that only municipalities with a commission form of government may recall their officials.

For more information, see: Recall of the Vincent City Council, Vincent, Alabama (2011).

See also

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