Sunday, July 27, 2008

What is a Recall Election?

What is a Recall Petition?

18 states recognize the peoples right to recall state and local elected officials. Recall allows voters to remove elected officials from office before their terms are complete. The state of Washington adopted a Constitutional Amendment (Amendment 8) in 1912 and 1913. All elected officials in the state of Washington, except judges of court of record, are subject to recall.

Why is Recall important?

During campaigns, candidates make campaign promises to entice voters to vote for them, only to break those promises once they are elected to office. Voters should not have to wait until the end of a elected official's term to remove bad political actors from office. Recall allows voters to hold elected officials accountable thoroughout the elected official's term of office.

Example of a Successful Recall Election in the state of Washington:

Mayor Jim West was recalled during a special election held December 6, 2005. On December 16, 2005, he was officially stripped of his duties as Mayor of Spokane.


Shannon Sullivan, a Spokane resident filed a recall petition against Mayor Jim
West. A superior Court Judge invalidated two counts on the petition and upheld one. Mayor West appealed the ruling to the State Supreme Court. On August 24, 2005, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Shannon Sullivan, the citizen who filed the Recall petition. Petition organizers collected over 17,000 signatures and submitted them to the elections office on September 21, 2005. The Elections office verified that 12,567 signatures were valid and a special election was held by mail on December 6, 2005.The Recall petition vote was 65% in favor of recalling Mayor West. The election was certified by the Spokane County Auditor's Office.

The Constitution of the State of Washington:

he Washington State Constitution: Article I, §§ 33 and 34 (Amendment 8) establish the right and outline the procedure to recall elected officials (except judges of courts of record), as follows:

Article I, § 33:

"Every elective public officer in the state of Washington expect [except] judges of courts of record is subject to recall and discharge by the legal voters of the state, or of the political subdivision of the state, from which he was elected whenever a petition demanding his recall, reciting that such officer has committed some act or acts of malfeasance or misfeasance while in office, or who has violated his oath of office, stating the matters complained of,signed by the percentages of the qualified electors thereof, hereinafter provided, the percentage required to be computed from the total number of votes cast for all candidates for his said office to which he was elected at the preceding election, is filed with the officer with whom a petition for nomination, or certificate for nomination, to such office must be filed under the laws of this state, and the same officer shall call a special election as provided by the general election laws of this state, and the result determined as therein provided." (Emphasis supplied.)

Article I, § 34:

"The legislature shall pass the necessary laws to carry out the provisions of section thirty-three (33) of this article, and to facilitate its operation and effect without delay. . . .

"The percentages required shall be, state officers, other than judges, senators and representatives, city officers of cities of the first class, school district boards in cities of the first class; county officers of counties of the first, second and third classes, twenty-five per cent. Officers of all other political subdivisions, cities, towns, townships, precincts and school districts not herein mentioned, and state senators and representatives, thirty-five per cent." (Emphasis supplied.)

These provisions were added to the Constitution through the amendatory process in 1912. The following year the legislature enacted such legislation as it deemed necessary to implement the right established by this amendment. See, chapter 146, Laws of 1913.1/ Among the sections of this act was § 8, which provided, in material part, as follows:

RCW 29.82.060:

"When the person, committee, or organization demanding the recall of a public officer has secured sufficient signatures upon the recall petition he or it may submit the same to the officer with whom the charge was filed for filing in his office. The number of signatures required shall be as follows:

"(1) In the case of a state officer, an officer of a city of the first class, a member of a school board in a city of the first class, or acounty officer of a county of the first, second or third class‑-signatures of legal voters equal to twenty-five percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for the office to which the officer whose recall is demanded was elected at the preceding election.

"(2) In the case of an officer of any political subdivision, city, town, township, precinct, or school district other than those mentioned in subdivision (1), and in the case [[Orig. Op. Page 5]] of a state senator or representative‑- signatures of legal voters equal to thirty-five percent of the total number of votes cast for all candidates for the office to which the officer whose recall is demanded was elected at the preceding election." (Emphasis supplied.)

A copy of the Spokesman Review's Investigation of Mayor Jim West can be found here:
PBS Frontline:

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