Recalls remove elector choice - Coeur d'Alene Press: Sholeh Patrick

Recalls remove elector choice

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Posted: Thursday, April 19, 2012 12:15 am

Any infringement on the right of the electorate to choose its representatives should be minimal and absolutely necessary; such is the essence of democracy. Hence, the rare recall of a duly elected official should be reserved to extreme circumstances, like - as one well-known attorney suggests - crime, sexual harassment/human rights violations, or evidence of corruption. Otherwise, the remedy for popular disapproval of policies and decisions is to elect someone else when the disapproved party's term is up.

Like most citizens I sometimes disagree with what my representatives do. On the other hand, I sure don't want someone else hand-picking their replacement, in the event a recall is successful, taking that choice from me. Yet that's exactly what would happen.

Nevertheless, despite the absence of criminal or other extremes, a group of citizens is attempting to recall not one, but four elected Coeur d'Alene officials, at least nominally over park improvements. To be fair that's just icing on a cake of dissatisfaction (with lawful, if disapproved, choices) this group has long had. Their view is these officials ignore the populace and want to spend too much public money on what the public does not want. The other view is that the proposed changes have been studied, discussed, are lawful and will use funding specifically designated for this purpose when the urban renewal agency (and its funds) were created.

Never mind McEuen Park for the moment. No matter which way you see it, the process itself is at issue as much as the dispute, perhaps even more. A look at recall elections is called for.

Idaho is one of 38 states which permit recall of locally elected officials. Some states permit local only, others local and state (like Idaho), and only 11 allow for local, state, and federal recalls. Idaho and 15 other states don't specify or limit the reason for recall; the majority require a crime, neglect of duties, "malfeasance" or misuse of office. Recall attempts are uncommon, but when they are used, they're most often against local and school board officials.

Article 6, Section 6 of the Idaho Constitution provides for recall of any public officer, except the judiciary. Titles 34 and 59 of Idaho Code describe the process for recall (20 percent of registered voters' signatures then they step down voluntarily or a recall election takes place) and replacement, who is appointed by the governor. In Idaho's county offices and in many states, this appointment is from a list provided by a local political party committee (of the same party as the person recalled, sometimes advisory). Idaho Code doesn't specify for city offices, and even in the case of a nonpartisan office, the vacancy is still replaced by gubernatorial appointment. That's the rub - that the core of the same group recalling these officials could use the recall as a mechanism to influence or hand pick the replacement, without an election, without involving the electorate at large.

When used properly the recall is an important tool to protect the integrity of a democracy. However, it must be used sparingly and judiciously, lest it too easily and effectively become a political tool to circumvent the election process, whether or not so intended.

Sholeh Patrick, J.D., is a columnist for the Hagadone News Network. Contact her at

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  • RadRev2D posted at 11:05 am on Sat, Apr 21, 2012.

    RadRev2D Posts: 372

    evidence of corruption???

    When evidence was presented, the CDA Press declined to comment.
    Elector Choice has been compromised at the ballot box.
    Those who challenge Status Quo are publicly thrashed and terminated from employment.
    Got to wonder why the Press remains silent in the face of Noble Cause Corruption.

    Odd how the letters against the recall are penned by people and organizations that mostly serve on Foundations that are void from Freedom of Information requests. Mountainwest Bank has served a pivotal role as its board members influenced the direction of local URAs, education expansion, and now a park improvement that will ultimately restrict access to Lake CDA for many Locals.

    Perhaps what Locals are witnessing is Good Ole Boys rubbing shoulders.
    Such bank on most working stiffs moving every five years for better employment.
    And then there is restricted employment: But Wipers and Yassuh Boys in great demand!
    Tourism is upon us and I'm heading for the hills!

  • JClark posted at 2:40 pm on Thu, Apr 19, 2012.

    JClark Posts: 91

    Sholeh...It feels like there are two different games being played...the grassroots recall group is playing golf by the rulebook....but some city officials are playing Ice Hockey and I for one got a body slam within the walls of Coeurd'Alene City Hall. How are we going to save this relationship? The Recall is decided by the Voters. Will all parties involved find that "third alternative"? I pray all parties do find it indeed...sooner rather than later!

  • DeNiles posted at 2:30 pm on Thu, Apr 19, 2012.

    DeNiles Posts: 2450

    Sholeh, please complete the rest of the story. Most of the elected people under this recall scrutiny were heavily funded in their election process. They were so heavily funded that they outspent their opponents by wide margins and established new records for local election spending. Why? Could it be that they were being sponsored?

    So here is the electorates response. A recall where influential campaign spending is not so weighty. It is quite democratic, a grass roots recall process leading to a referendum vote of 'no confidence'. This is just a leveling of the playing field using legal and real processes provided by Idaho's constitution.

    You are certainly welcome to your opinion and, to be honest, your position is of no grand surprise. The elected powers have tossed every trump card they OWN and slathered out quite a bit of not-so-veiled COERCION and you are just another cookie cutter part of that incredibly sad endeavor. Have you NO pride?

  • justinian posted at 9:29 am on Thu, Apr 19, 2012.

    justinian Posts: 318

    Why is the left pushing to recall Luna then? Or Scott Walker?

    No - when elected officials are grossly out of step with the electorate, the recall is one of the necessary checks and balances that can and should be considered. Here is the political science test:

    If the current system participatory in a widespread fashion, if it is deliberate with a rational discussion where all major points of view are weighted according to evidence and equal, or fair then recalls simply do not happen. The absolute failure of leadership on the Mayor's part has caused this. Rather than sit down with Ron and Steve and Dan, she has chosen sides. That is a sure path to voter anger.

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