Recall of Elected Civic Leaders and Integrity Measures (RECLAIM) Act

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Summary

Recall procedures serve as a crucial mechanism in the democratic process, providing constituents with a means to hold their elected officials accountable. At the county level, where local governance directly impacts the daily lives of residents, the necessity of effective and ongoing accountability measures are paramount.

Recall of Elected Civic Leaders and Integrity Measures (RECLAIM) Act

Section 1. Background

A political recall is the process by which citizens can remove elected officials from office before their term is completed. This process typically includes the circulation of petitions by recall organizers (U.S. citizens), the evaluation of signatures by election officials, and a public vote if the petitions are deemed to have sufficient valid signatures.

The details of the recall process vary from state to state.

In the states that allow political recalls, the recall vote may involve one of the following: a yes/no vote on the targeted official, a contested vote between the targeted official and one or more challengers, or a simultaneous yes/no vote on the targeted official and a vote to select a replacement if the official loses the yes/no vote. Of the 39 states that allow political recalls, 12 require legal or political grounds for the recall petition, which can range from disagreements over policy to malfeasance or abuse of power.

Section 2. Definitions

Recall Initiative: A legal procedure through which voters can petition to remove an elected official from office before the end of their term. The recall initiative typically involves collecting signatures from a certain percentage of registered voters within a specified timeframe to trigger a recall election.

Local Elected Official: A person who holds a public office at the county or municipality level as a result of winning an election. This includes but is not limited to, positions such as county commissioners, district attorneys, sheriffs, mayors, and other local government officials who are chosen by popular vote.

Petition: A formal written request signed by citizens seeking a specific action, such as the removal of an elected official through the recall process. The petition typically outlines the reasons for the recall and includes signatures from eligible voters.

Petitioner: The individual, or group of individuals, who files the recall petition and who is responsible for adhering to the necessary measures prescribed.

Recall Election: A special election is held to determine whether an elected official should be removed from office through the recall process. Voters are typically presented with a ballot question asking whether the official should be recalled, and if a majority of voters vote in favor of the recall, the official is removed from office.

Grounds for Recall: The specific reasons or grounds under which an elected official can be subject to a recall initiative. These grounds may include misconduct, malfeasance, incompetence, or other actions that are deemed to warrant removal from office by the electorate.

County Clerk: (State terminology may differ on who is assigned ownership of recall petition – county clerk, board of elections, etc. In the context of this policy, the term “county clerk” is used as a general description for this office.) An elected county official whose duties can vary, but include serving as secretary to the county board, issuing licenses, keeping records, overseeing local elections, and acting as county auditor, among other duties.

Section 3. Statements of Intent

Accountability: Highlight the importance of holding local elected officials accountable to their constituents and ensuring that they remain responsive to the community’s needs and concerns.

Citizen Engagement: Highlight the positive impact of recall initiatives on citizen engagement and participation in the political process, promoting a sense of civic responsibility and democratic stewardship.

Legislative Intent: The goal is to enhance accountability, promote transparency, and safeguard the democratic process at the local level.

Section 4. Procedures

Who can be recalled? Any local elected official at the municipality or county level who has served a minimum of 6 months of their term may be subject to a recall initiative. Any local elected official at the municipality or county level who has 6 months or less on their term of office before reelection cannot be recalled.

Who has the ability to start a recall initiative? Any U.S. citizen/petitioner 18 years or older, who resides in the jurisdiction in which the local official that is subject to the proposed recall serves.

How does a recall initiative start? The petitioner must file an Intent to Recall Petition with their local county clerk’s office (or other similar office responsible for administering local elections). Therein, the petitioner must articulate/demonstrate in writing, in 500 words or less, that the local official in question has engaged in the malfeasance, nonfeasance, or misfeasance of their official duties of office; been deemed incompetent by a court of law; committed a crime; or otherwise neglected to uphold the basic obligations of their office.

Once the Intent to Recall Petition is filed, the petitioner must then collect signatures in an amount equal to or exceeding 25% of the total amount of voters that voted in the recall target’s last election. To be considered a valid signature, the signatory must be a U.S. citizen, 18 years and older, and reside in the jurisdiction of the official sought to be recalled.

If the total required signatures to be obtained is less than 5,000, the petitioner must collect those signatures and submit them to the county clerk in 60 days or less; if the total required signatures are between 5,000—15,000, the petitioner must submit those signatures to the county clerk within 90 days; if the total required signatures exceed 15,000, the petitioner must submit them to the county clerk within 120 days.

After the requisite signatures are submitted, the county clerk will have no more than 30 days, excluding weekends and holidays, to determine the legitimacy of the signatures. Once the county clerk certifies that the petition is valid, they will have no more than 5 days, excluding weekends and holidays, to announce the date of the election.

The election shall be held not less than 88 nor more than 125 days after the issuance of the order. However, the election may be conducted within 180 days after the issuance of the order so that the election may be consolidated with a regularly scheduled election.

Section 5. Enactment

This law shall take effect on {date}.