by Jennie Bowser and Wendy Underhill
Wisconsin’s recall election takes place tomorrow, deciding if Governor Scott Walker, Lieutenant Governor Rebecca Kleefisch and four Republican senators shall retain their offices or be replaced. The politics of this debate are well covered by the national media. What we haven’t seen is coverage of how recall elections work.
NCSL‘s webpage, Recall of State Officials, does the job in detail. Here is a quick summary.
In the 19 states that permit recall elections, if citizens can gather enough valid petition signatures in the time allotted, a recall election is scheduled. The recall elections themselves fall into two general categories:
“Simultaneous” elections: In six states, only one event--the recall election-- is needed to determine if the official should be recalled and if so, who will be the successor. The ballots in two of these states, California and Colorado, include two questions: first, whether the official should be recalled, and second, which candidate should fill the slot. The second question is moot if the answer to the first question is “no.”
In the other four states (Arkansas, Nevada, North Dakota and Wisconsin) the recall ballot offers simply a list of candidates for the office, which may or may not include the official who is the subject of the recall. In other words, a successful campaign to hold a recall in these states essentially triggers a special election for the office.
“Sequential” elections: In the remaining 13 states, the recall ballot contains only the question of whether the official should be recalled. If the majority votes "yes," the office is declared vacant and the office is filled as any other vacancy would be filled in that state. In Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, New Jersey, Oregon and Rhode Island, vacancies trigger a separate special election. In Alaska, Idaho, Kansas and Washington the office is filled by appointment.
For those who want more information, check out The Recall Elections Blog.