Amendment for recalls would have allowed for no legislative recalls in prior yearsThere's been a strong push as of late, by Republican legislators in the state and news media alike, to restrict the terms under which recall elections can occur. This call has come after an historic nine recall elections occurred this year alone, more than doubling the number of recalls that had previously been seen at the state legislative level.
I have written extensively on the subject, on why recalls strengthen our democracy rather than hinder it (1, 2, 3, 4, 5). The ability of the people to have a check on their legislators isn't something we should try to restrict -- indeed, the process itself is much harder to initiate than people give it credit for.
18 state senators were eligible for recall this year; of those, only nine faced election, and only two of those were successfully removed from office. The idea that recalls don't respect democratic preference is hogwash, not only because it requires a democratic election in order to succeed, but also because it requires a strict timeline, allowing tempers to cool down, ensuring that the change in personnel is a change that's really desired.
To alter the conditions of recalls would also ignore the intent of what recalls were all about. Our state constitution doesn't limit why recalls can happen -- in fact, no recall election at the legislative level has ever occurred on the bases or merits that the proposed constitutional amendment would restrict them under.
Only four recall elections of state legislators had occurred before this year. Only two of those were successful. Of those four, one occurred over constituents' disagreements with that representative's views on Indian treaty rights, another over a vote on a regional sales tax, and another over a legislator's overly-compromising behavior, having crossed the partisan divide too many times and seemingly "selling out" his constituents.
The only reasonably close instance that may merit a recall under the new conditions being proposed was in 1932, when Sen. Otto Mueller refused to present himself at a roll call vote that then-Gov. Philip La Follette had ordered the legislature to convene on. But even that instance (which resulted in Mueller staving off a recall challenge) wouldn't fit the terms of the proposal by Rep. Robin Vos:
His amendment would mean state officials, including the governor and legislators, could face recalls only for one of three reasons:Otto Mueller was never found to have violated any ethics violation, nor convicted of any crime for his refusal to comply with La Follette's wishes.
- If they are charged or convicted of a felony.
- If they are convicted of a misdemeanor.
- If they are found guilty of an ethics violation.
So under Vos's terms, none of the legislative recalls in Wisconsin state history would have been justified, including the four before this year's slew of recall elections.
This anti-democratic measure deserves to be defeated. There is no reason that Vos or any legislator for that matter should propose an amendment that would lessen the democratic ability of the people in this state. Such a move is radical, even for Vos's standards.