Brewtown Politico

Carrying a little stick and speaking loudly in Milwaukee


They're called elections. Use them.

So we have yet another attempt to recall an elected official in Wisconsin. This time, it's in Madison where some people are upset with the ban on smoking in bars that recently went into effect.

In recent years, it seems there has been an epidemic of recall elections at the state and local level, and it's about time we start to think about if these special elections are doing more harm than good to our democracy. If recall elections are necessary, they ought to be reserved for extreme circumstances like abuse of power and not over a disagreement on public policy.

These recalls appear to be happening because a minority of voters are too impatient to wait until the next election, and because it's a good opportunity for organized interests to install their own guy since special elections tend to have a lower turnout. In 1996, Democrats used the recall law to boot Sen. George Petak (R-Racine) after he cast the deciding vote in favor of building Miller Park, giving him the honor of being the first Wisconsin legislator ever to be recalled. Since then, we've had numerous other recall elections, and now we have the effort to recall Mayor Dave Cieslewicz in Madison. Whether the smoking ban is a good or bad idea isn't relevant here. What matters is that the mayor will be up for election again in a year from April and voters can keep him or throw him out then.

As Watchdog Milwaukee points out, at least one state legislator understands the problem. Rep. Al Ott (R-Forest Junction) has legislation pending in committee that would clarify the recall law. Under the bill, a circuit court would have to rule that a recall petition falls under one of these categories: inefficiency, neglect of duty, misconduct or malfeasance. This was required up until 1990 when that caveat was eliminated.


At 10/18/2005 08:32:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think people are getting to the point where if they can't make it to the poll to vote, what the heck; if the guy who gets in doesn't measure up to expectations, there's always the recall to take him/her out early.

At 10/21/2005 10:09:00 AM, Blogger cambridgeJason said...

Please recall your post (re: they're called elections). I’m not satisfied that the post meets the standards that I thought it would when I elected to visit this blog.


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