State legislative recalls
|Political Recalls Portal|
States with Recalls • Political recall laws
State legislators can be recalled in 18 states. As of April 2015, 80 recalls have been attempted, with 37 making it to the ballot. Of those, 21 have been successful.
The first successful recall occurred in California in 1913. The state with the most attempted recalls is Michigan with 24, although only three of them were successful. Wisconsin is second highest with 18 total campaigns, though six of them were successful.
Since 2011, 46 recall campaigns have occurred. Eight recalls were successful, eight were defeated at the ballot and another 30 did not go to a vote.
About state legislative recalls
Recall is a process available in 18 states whereby an elected official can be removed from office either for malfeasance or in some jurisdictions for any action the recall language specifies. State law dictates the signature threshold and collecting period. More than half of the states set their recall signature threshold as the highest signature threshold for any type of petition — most often requiring 25% of all registered voters or 25% of voters in the last election for the recalled office to sign a recall petition.
The first provision allowing for recall was adopted by Los Angeles in 1903. The first two states to adopt the recall process were Michigan and Oregon in 1908. Wisconsin added a constitutional amendment governing recalls in 1926. New Jersey and Minnesota are the most recent states to add a recall provision to their constitution, doing so in 1993 and 1996, respectively.
Between 1913 and 2008, there were 21 state legislative recall elections and all of them took place in just five states: California, Idaho, Michigan, Oregon and Wisconsin. Thirteen of the recall campaigns targeted state senators and 8 were successfully recall. The other eight targeted state representatives and five of them were successful.
2011 Wisconsin State Senate recalls
In 2011, residents of Wisconsin took effort to recall as many as 16 sitting state senators. The efforts were launched in the wake of events surrounding the introduction of Wisconsin Assembly Bill 11, the "Scott Walker Budget Repair Bill" in February 2011. Sufficient signatures were verified for nine senators, three Democrats and six Republicans. Two Republicans -- Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper -- were recalled.
The Wisconsin recalls of 2011 were unique because multiple state officials were targeted at once. Historically, recalls were aimed at one specific legislator. "Recall is usually an individual matter, rather than a group sport," said Gary Moncrief, a political science professor at Boise State University who studies state legislatures. Ultimately, two GOP senators -- Dan Kapanke and Randy Hopper -- were recalled and defeated by Democratic opponents in 2011.
Also intriguing in this election was the Republican's alleged use of "fake" candidates to force a recall primary and effectively delay the recall election by four weeks. Six individuals considered by some to be "fake" Democratic candidates were defeated in the July 12 recall primary.
2012 Wisconsin State Senate recalls
In 2012, residents of Wisconsin took effort to recall four state Senators. These were seen as a continuation of the 2011 recalls caused by the Scott Walker Budget Repair Bill. The four targeted Senators, all Republicans, faced recall elections on June 5. Only one, Van Wanggaard, was successfully recalled following a recount. Wanggarrd's recall gave Democrats control of the Wisconsin State Senate for the second half of 2012.
2013 Colorado recalls
Four Colorado legislators were targeted in a total of five recalls in 2013. Senate President John Morse and fellow Senator Angela Giron were successfully recalled. Sen. Evie Hudak, who faced two recall petitions in 2013, resigned following the second. Only Rep. Michael McLachlan survived a recall attempt in 2013. All four Democratic legislators were targeted for their support of controversial gun control legislation passed as "emergency legislation," thus circumventing a possible repeal by voter referendum.
The Morse and Giron recalls drew criticism and lawsuits over the lack of available mail-in voting for the recall election. The Libertarian Party of Colorado sued Secretary of State Scott Gessler (R), charging that a recently-passed law that called for elections to be held by mail conflicted with a constitutional provision allowing for candidates to qualify for 15 days before an election. District Judge Robert McGahey agreed, granting more time for candidates to file. Gessler announced that because of this ruling, there would not be enough time to print mail-in ballots for the election.
These recalls drew a lot of money from national sources. On the side attempting to recall the legislators, the National Rifle Assocation $108,000 while Americans for Prosperity donated an undisclosed amount. Then-Mayor of New York City Michael Bloomberg donated $350,000 to the incumbents' campaigns, along with $250,000 from Eli Broad and $250,000 from the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee. $100,000 was contributed to the Morse and Giron campaigns by both the Service Employees International Union and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Rules governing recall
15 states base the number of signatures required to force a recall election on a percentage of the number of votes cast in the most recent for the office held by the incumbent whose recall is sought. In the other three states, Oregon, Michigan and Wisconsin, the number of signatures required is a percentage of the number of votes cast for the office of governor in the legislative district where the incumbent is targeted. Three states allow 60 days to collect the required number of signatures, eight allow 90 days for this process
Seven states require a valid reason for recall prior to petition circulation. Three states allow for legislators convicted of crimes to be the target of a recall, three specifically mention malfeasance and two allow for the recall of officials who are deemed physically or mentally unfit to serve. A full list of such valid reasons is available here.
- Chris Edwards recall, Nevada State Assembly (2015)
- Chuck Riley recall, Oregon State Senate (2015)
- John Hambrick recall, Nevada State Assembly (2015)
- Stephen Sweeney recall, New Jersey State Senate (2015)
- Susan McLain recall, Oregon House of Representatives (2015)
- Val Hoyle recall, Oregon House of Representatives (2015)
- Angela Giron recall, Colorado State Senate (2013)
- Chad Campbell recall, Arizona House of Representatives (2013)
- Evie Hudak recall, Colorado State Senate (2013)
- John Kavanagh recall, Arizona House of Representatives (2013)
- John Morse recall, Colorado State Senate (2013)
- Lindsey Holmes recall, Alaska House of Representatives (2013)
- Michael McLachlan recall, Colorado House of Representatives (2013)
- Bob Jauch recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2012)
- Bruce Caswell recall, Michigan State Senate (2012)
- Charles Kleckley recall, Louisiana House of Representatives (2012)
- George Cromer recall, Louisiana House of Representatives (2012)
- Kevin Pearson recall, Louisiana House of Representatives (2012)
- Pam Galloway recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2012)
- Patrick Colbeck recall, Michigan State Senate (2012)
- Phil Pavlov recall, Michigan State Senate (2012)
- Randy Richardville recall, Michigan State Senate (2012)
- Ray Garofalo recall, Louisiana House of Representatives (2012)
- Scott Fitzgerald recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2012)
- Terry Moulton recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2012)
- Van Wanggaard recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2012)
- Al Pscholka recall, Michigan House of Representatives (2011)
- Alberta Darling recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)
- Brandon Dillon recall, Michigan House of Representatives (2011)
- Dan Kapanke recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)
- Dave Hansen recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)
- James Bolger recall, Michigan House of Representatives (2011)
- Jim Holperin recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)
- Jim Townsend recall, Michigan House of Representatives (2011)
- John Moolenaar recall, Michigan State Senate (2011)
- John Pappageorge recall, Michigan State Senate (2011)
- Judy Emmons recall, Michigan State Senate (2011)
- Kurt Damrow recall, Michigan House of Representatives (2011)
- Kyle Johansen recall, Alaska (2011)
- Lisa Brown recall, Michigan House of Representatives (2011)
- Luther Olsen recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)
- Michael Nofs recall, Michigan State Senate (2011)
- Mike Green recall, Michigan State Senate (2011)
- Mike Shirkey recall, Michigan House of Representatives (2011)
- Nancy Jenkins recall, Michigan House of Representatives (2011)
- Paul Scott recall, Michigan House of Representatives (2011)
- Randy Hopper recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)
- Randy Richardville recall, Michigan State Senate (2011)
- Robert Cowles recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)
- Robert Wirch recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)
- Russell Pearce recall, Arizona State Legislature (2011)
- Sheila Harsdorf recall, Wisconsin State Senate (2011)
As of April 2015, 73 state legislative recalls have been attempted, with 37 (50.7%) making it to the ballot. Of those, 21 (56.8%) have been successful. Forty-three (58.9%) of the campaigns targeted state senators, while 30 (41.1%) targeted state representatives.
|State legislative recall results|
|Stephen Sweeney||2015||New Jersey||Senate|
|Mike Green (West Virginia)||2011||Michigan||Senate|
- Recalls on Ballotpedia
- Political recall efforts
- States where state legislators can be recalled
- Laws governing recall
- National Conference of State Legislators, "Recall of State Officials," accessed June 11, 2014
- WUWM Public Radio, "Historic Recall Elections Coming Up Soon," July 5, 2011
- Post Crescent, "Wisconsin Republicans wants spoiler candidates in senate recalls," June 6, 2011
- Associated Press, "Colorado recall candidates get more time to challenge gun-control supporters," August 12, 2013
- The Pueblo Chieftain, "Ortiz asks high court to restore mail-ballot recall election," August 14-15, 2013
- washingtonpost.com, "Colorado recall becoming referendum on guns," August 28, 2013
- gazette.com, "Recall campaign money trickles in, some can't be traced," August 28, 2013