recallreed blog

This blog is established to recall Washington State Secretary of State Sam Reed for failure to perform his duty. You may comment and submit information on-line. If you would like to help, contact Linda Jordan, State Coordinator, at People are encouraged to download, print and share the petition text with others but petitions for signature gathering can not be printed until the Attorney General writes the ballot synopsis and the sufficiency of the charges are upheld in Court.

Wednesday, January 19, 2005

Could a recall happen here? State's tougher rules aim to prevent California-style circus

Originally published Tuesday, September 2, 2003

As California's state government is rocked by the spectacle of the recall attempt against Gov. Gray Davis, some in Washington wonder if the same thing could happen here.

Washington, like California and 17 other states, has a system in place to recall a governor or any other elected official. But elections officials say the system here is more orderly, with a higher bar for recalling officials from office.

The California and Washington systems "are certainly based on the same premise, which is that the people do have the right to recall an elected official," Secretary of State Sam Reed said. "But ours is much more rigorous."

Many political commentators have slammed California's laws for making it almost comically easy to mount a recall campaign against the governor.

In that state, recall supporters needed to collect 897,158 signatures to put the recall on the ballot, or 12 percent of the number of voters in the most recent gubernatorial election, a small number for a state with more than 34 million residents.

By contrast, in Washington signatures are required from 35 percent of the number of people who voted in the last election of the official being recalled. For instance, if someone were to mount a recall campaign against Gov. Gary Locke, they'd first need to gather about 864,000 signatures -- a large percentage of the state's 3.3 million registered voters.

In Washington's history of citizen voter drives, the most signatures ever gathered for a single ballot measure was for 1973's Initiative 282, which rolled back legislative pay increases. Lynnwood furniture salesman Bruce Helm collected about 699,000 signatures for that effort.

"Especially in a statewide race, you would just be behind the 8-ball immediately," said anti-tax activist Tim Eyman, a veteran of statewide initiative campaigns. Eyman thinks the number of signatures needed should be lower.

The task is somewhat easier for local elected officials, where fewer people vote in the elections. Two of the more notable recent recall efforts were against local officials:

- In the early 1970s, a Seattle firefighters union sponsored a recall drive against then-Mayor Wes Uhlman, who they felt was not properly funding the department. Voters kept Uhlman in office.

- In 1981, a group of angry Democrats tried to recall King County state Sen. Pete Von Reichbauer after he switched from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party. Again, the effort failed, and Von Reichbauer now serves on the King County Council.

Past efforts

There has never been a recall vote against a statewide elected official in Washington's history, said John Pearson, the deputy director of elections in Reed's office.

There was a brief but intense effort in 1926 to recall then-Gov. Roland Hartley, a Republican who was thought to have engineered the firing of popular University of Washington President Henry Suzzallo after the two clashed over higher education funding.

According to a 1996 report by The Seattle Times, both the Times and the Post-Intelligencer launched campaigns in support of a recall movement against Hartley, but it quickly withered due to lack of support outside of Seattle.

"Nothing ever made it to the ballot," Pearson said. Hartley went on to lose a re-election bid in 1932.

In 1984, when Reed was Thurston County auditor, he was growing frustrated with a succession of recall attempts against city government officials in Rainier, efforts he characterized as "mostly losing candidates trying to recall the people who beat them."

Reed joined with the Spokane County auditor in requesting legislation to set another blockade.

Under the successful legislation, every recall attempt must undergo a hearing in Superior Court, with the presiding judge deciding whether the official in question is guilty of the "malfeasance or misfeasance" that the recall statute says should set the grounds for a recall.

"Since then, we've seen fewer recalls, but they've been serious ones," Reed said. "I think that's good."

No such oversight exists in California, and Reed thinks the current effort there is an aberration.

"I'm no fan of Gray Davis, but he won the election fair and square," Reed said. "For people to turn around and try to recall him just because they disagree with him or don't like him, I think it's improper."

Because most recall drives are likely to be sparked by major policy differences, Eyman said he thinks the initiative process is in large part an acceptable substitute for the ability to easily mount a recall. Between the amount of signatures needed and the legal hurdles, it would just be too difficult in Washington, Eyman said.

"It ain't gonna happen in Washington," Eyman said. "You might as well predict that rain is going to stop falling in Seattle. The system is just rigged against it."

Washington's system differs from California's in one other important way.

In California, everyone from actor Arnold Schwarzenegger to former child star Gary Coleman to syndicated columnist Arianna Huffington got onto the replacement ballot with nothing more than 65 signatures and a $3,500 filing fee.

In Washington, if an official is recalled, the normal succession process for that particular office goes into effect.

"If we recalled the governor," Reed said. "the lieutenant governor would take over


At 4:03 PM, Blogger Josef said...

Thanks for posting this article :-)

At 8:51 AM, Blogger Eastside said...

I used to live In Wenatchee during the 70's and I remember a recall attempt of a Prosecuting Attorney that I believe was successful. It was up north and I believe It was either Ferry or Stevens County. I don't remember any of the details except that it was a three-ring circus.

At 3:27 PM, Blogger Eastside said...

I did a little checking on Google and found I was mistaken about the location. The recall of the Prosecuting Attorney took place in Okanogan Co.


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