Laws governing recall in the District of Columbia

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The citizens of Washington D.C. were granted the authority to perform a recall election with the passage of the Initiative, Referendum, and Recall Procedures Act of 1979. [1]

Signature requirements

Valid signatures from 10% of the registered voters in the elected official's district are required to force a recall election. For citywide recalls, a ward distribution requirement necessitates the collection of signatures from at least 10% of the voters in at least five of the city's eight election wards, in addition to meeting the 10% citywide requirement.

Who can be recalled?

Any elected official in the District of Columbia may be recalled, with the exception of the Delegate to Congress.


There are three phases to the recall process in the District of Columbia: the signature gathering phase, the petition filing and verification phase, and the election phase.

Signature gathering phase

The recall process begins when a registered voter files a "Notice of Intention to Recall." This document must state the reasons for the proposed recall in no more than 200 words. A "Notice of Intention to Recall" may not be filed during the first or last year of an elected official's term. The targeted official has 10 days to to respond to the "Notice of Intention to Recall." After 10 days have passed, the recall petition can begin to be circulated. The Board of Elections and Ethics must approve the petition before it is circulated, and the petition must include the recall proponent's notice as well as the elected official's response.

Petition filing and verification phase

Recall organizers have 180 days to submit signatures. The 180 days begin on the day that the elected official submits his or her response to the "Notice of Intention to Recall." The Board of Elections determines if petition signers are registered voters of the District of Columbia. A random sampling of signatures is verified against the signatory's voter registration record. The Board of Elections has 30 days to complete the signature verification process. Recall proponents and representatives of the targeted official may legally watch the petition verification process.

Election phase

If the Board of Elections certifies the recall petition, a recall election will be scheduled within 114 days. The question on the recall election ballot will ask voters whether or not they would like to recall the targeted official. If the majority of voters cast ballots to recall the official, another election will be scheduled to fill the vacant office. The replacement election is held the first Tuesday occurring 114 days after certification of the recall election results. The recalled official may legally choose to enter the replacement election as a candidate.

Contact information

DC Board of Elections and Ethics
441 4th Street, NW, Suite 250 North
Washington, DC 20001
Tel: (202) 727-2525 | TTY: (202) 639-8916 | Tollfree: 1-866-DC-VOTES

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