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Notion of a 'recall' is just tilting at windmills

Posted: December 11, 2011 - 12:04am  |  Updated: December 14, 2011 - 2:46pm

Here are the instructions for building a windmill.

When riled-up voters decide they’re mad enough at an elected official – say, a county commissioner – to believe he should be booted from office rather than waiting until the next election, they often demand a recall.

Some people have been muttering the word “recall” since the commissioners’ Magnolia Trace debacle. It’s easy to demand, especially when you don’t have a clue about how it’s done or any actual intention of doing it.

A recall is terrifically difficult in Georgia, as evidenced by its rarity. And usually they’re unnecessary; voters typically don’t have to wait long for the next election cycle, so a regularly scheduled election can come and go before the complicated process of a recall can be completed.

Additionally, if a public official’s official misconduct reaches a level that involves criminality, as spelled out in some of the grounds for a recall, the courts can take care of the problem without voters needing to gather a single signature.

Still, that doesn’t mean many a voter hasn’t gritted his or her teeth at the actions of an elected official and wished that politician could be drummed out of office immediately, if not sooner. A recall might sound like the next best thing.

Here’s some information, then, from the Georgia secretary of state’s office:

To initiate a recall, there are two significant initial barriers. First is meeting the test of proving the grounds for the recall. The voter has to get a recall application from the local election superintendent, and then gather signatures from a maximum of 100 “sponsors,” or 10 percent of the number of voters eligible to vote for the office in the most recent election, whichever is smaller.

That’s for the application, not the actual recall. Once that is submitted, the election superintendent then files it with Superior Court. A judge must decide whether a recall is justified. If the judge gives the OK, then the signatures of 15 percent of registered voters from the most recent election for that office have to be gathered.

Getting those signatures also has specific validation requirements (and cannot, by law, “be circulated or signed by any person in any location where alcoholic beverages are sold or served.” I thought that was pretty funny).

The petitioner has 45 days to get those signatures for an office in which 5,000 or more signatures are needed, or 30 days with fewer. Then, the elections superintendent has 30 days to verify the signatures (notice that we’re already up to nearly four months on this thing).

If the petition is ruled valid, the election superintendent has 10 days to call for an election within 30 to 45 days. So now we’re six months out – in other words, pretty close to the qualifying time for next year’s primary.

For anyone still pondering the idea (and who doesn’t love a good pointless exercise every now and then), it would require 4,623 signatures on a petition to get a recall of Columbia County Commission Chairman Ron Cross; 1,331 signatures for a recall of Commissioner Trey Allen; and 2,333 signatures for a recall of Commissioner Charles Allen. That would account for all three sitting commissioners who voted in favor of the “affordable housing” resolution that’s now come back to bite Martinez in the form of the planned Magnolia Trace housing development.

That’s one awfully big windmill.

 

(Barry L. Paschal is publisher of The Columbia County News-Times. Email barry.paschal@newstimes online.com, or call 706-863-6165, extension 106. Follow at twitter.com/
barrypaschal.)

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Comments (2)

Riverman1

Recall?

Come on man, we reelected Scott Dean to office after the news came out about him and the married county employee. We could never pull off a recall.

Interesting that the only two Columbia County officials the Missouri company developing Magnolia Trace gave campaign contributions to were Ben Harbin and Lee Anderson.

Many Arrows

Not a far stretch

Politicians are hated more now than ever. The pain of misguided decisions grows on the people. What once was impossible at some point happens.

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