Laws governing recall in Virginia

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Recall of elected officials in Virginia is made available through Virginia statutes. Unlike other states that hold recall elections however, when citizens have petitioned for a recall, it is then sent to the state Circuit Courts for trial.

Code of Virginia

Virginia is one of two states that provide for recall only though state statutes and not constitutional law, the other being Montana.[1]

Who may be recalled?

Code § 24.2-233 states that "Upon petition, a circuit court may remove from office any elected officer or officer who has been appointed to fill an elective office, residing within the jurisdiction of the court."[2]

The Virginia Law Review in 1975, the year the recall statutes were enacted, noted of the law, "A single Code article now governs the removal of state and local officers, both elected and appointed, except those whose removal from office is specifically provided for in the Virginia Constitution." The statute can be interpreted to generally mean all locally elected officials can be recalled. However, given ambiguity in the statute language, particularly in regard to court jurisdiction, it is unclear as to what extent the recall process would apply to state officers. There is no precedent of a Virginia state legislator or governor having faced recall, nor has the process been litigated in the courts. Removal of the Virginia Governor by impeachment is provided for in the Virginia Constitution.[1][3]

Recall reasons

Code § 24.2-233 states acceptable reasons for recall when it has "material adverse effect upon the conduct of the office" include:[2]

  • Neglect of duty
  • Misuse of office
  • Incompetence in the performance

Other acceptable reasons include:

  • Conviction of a misdemeanor relating to drugs
  • Conviction of a misdemeanor involving a "hate crime"

Petition requirements

The petition for recall must be signed by at least 10% of the number of people who voted in the last election for the office being recalled.[2] The petition must also detail the reasons for removal.[4]

Further applicable petition requirement for local recall efforts may be found in § 24.2-684.1. Potential petitioner should check with their local authorities for the most current and applicable regulations.

Trial process

After the petition has been submitted:

  • The officer subject to recall will receive notice.[4]
  • The officer's position may be suspended.[5]
  • The attorney for the Commonwealth will represent the state.[6]
  • The official subject to a recall trial has the right to demand a trial by jury.[6]
  • The results of the trial may be appealed to the Supreme Court of Virginia.[6]

Filling vacancies

If an official is recalled, the general procedure is to follow the laws set out for filling vacancies under Virginia Code Title 24.2 - Elections. For instance, when Mayor James Holley of Portsmouth was recalled for the second time in 2010, it was the city council who was charge with appointing a temporary successor; if they had failed to do it the process would have been deferred to the courts.[7][8]

See also

External links