For the first time in Colorado's 137-year history, voters in two districts recalled their state senators from office in September 2013. Although the event prompted significant debate over the controversial gun legislation that sparked the grassroots efforts to trigger the recall elections, discussion generally overlooked the implications of using political recall altogether-implications that concern the very foundation of American democracy: the role of the legislator. This Comment aims to fill that gap, examining politically motivated recalls in the context of state legislatures. Using the recent Colorado examples as a case study, this Comment argues that increased use of the tactic will shake the foundation of state legislative politics. By forcing legislators to consider the chance that they might be recalled after voting on any controversial issue, the tactic upsets the delicate balance between a legislator's ideal dual-role as a delegate and trustee, thereby distorting legislative decision making. Additionally, increased use of political recall threatens to create a literal manifestation of the "permanent campaign," and disproportionately advantage special interest and national groups in state politics.
Seeking to address the problems associated with the increased use of this dangerous tactic, this Comment presents three policy recommendations. Two of the recommendations are aimed at preventing politically motivated recalls from becoming the norm in state legislatures, while the third seeks to ensure that they do not take hold in a branch of government where their presence would be of even greater cause for concern-the judiciary. Specifically, this Comment recommends that states ban politically motivated recalls altogether. Alternatively, states could raise the signature requirement for initiating a politically motivated recall. At the very least, this Comment recommends that measures should be taken to ensure politically motivated recalls are never used against judges.
Zachary J. Siegel,
Recall Me Maybe? The Corrosive Effect of Recall Elections on State Legislative Politics,
U. Colo. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholar.law.colorado.edu/lawreview/vol86/iss1/6