By Matthew Rothschild
The shenanigans going on right now in
California are grist for the comedy mills, but they also raise a
serious question: Are recalls a good thing?
My answer is yes, but.
Yes, voters should have the right to recall their elected
officials. This was one of the great innovations of the progressive
era, and there's no reason to dispense with it now.
Californians--9 percent of all registered voters--signed petitions
to recall Governor Gray Davis. That's a lot of signatures! Nothing
wrong with direct democracy at work.
The "but" is that money has
polluted the recall process in California, just as it has in other
areas of elected politics. One rightwing Congressman, Darrell Issa,
spent more than a million dollars of his own money to get the recall
process going. That should be illegal. There needs to be tight
limits on how people can spend private money to affect this most
public purpose: electing, or tossing out, political leaders.
there's one other "but." The replacement ballot in California, if
Gray Davis is recalled, needs to be remedied in the future so that
no candidate is able to win with just a small plurality of votes.
There are a couple of ways to solve this: Have the top two
vote-getters face each other in a runoff, or have instant runoff
voting, so that citizens rank the candidates in order of preference,
and if their top choice is not one of the leading vote-getters, then
their next preference is counted until one candidate gets a
These reforms would make the
recall process much more democratic.
And that ought to be the goal--all Hollywood and
-- Matthew Rothschild