Ohio Needs A Recall Law

TUESDAY, MARCH 17:  Remember back in 2003 when California recalled its governor, Gray Davis, and replaced him with The Governator?  California is one of 19 states that allows for such a recall. Ohio is not.

That needs to change.  Now!

Yesterday’s three-ring circus concerning whether the primary election would or would not be held, and Gov. Mike DeWine’s lead role in the confusion, convinces me that we need this check on executive power in our state.  If the Governor and his colleagues around the country and in Washington can’t let a good crisis go to waste, then we citizens who still love liberty and our civil rights can’t let a good FUBAR go to waste. The Governor has opened the door.  Let’s prepare to walk through.

To recap, at his afternoon news conference yesterday, the Governor called for the primary election scheduled for today to be postponed until June 3.  He said that he didn’t have the authority to do so on his own. So his administration filed suit in court to make the change. The court said no. Now, it turns out that the Governor does have the authority to postpone the election on his own.  Or, at least, the power (not the same thing). Because he’s done it.

As a colleague and recent candidate for office, Jennifer Flower, puts it, “Voter confusion equals voter suppression.”  Darn right it does! My family was ready to go out to vote today, as we do every election day.  Our Central Committee Vice Chair, Scott Pettigrew, and his wife went out to their polling place today, and found no signs explaining the situation, but no poll workers either.  His next stop was to be his county board of elections.
By June, people who would have voted today will have passed away.  Others will have plans that keep them away from the polls. But these are minor considerations, compared to this one: while former Vice President Joe Biden has a substantial edge in the race for the Democratic presidential nomination, it isn’t completely over yet.  A strong showing by supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders here in Ohio might have changed the picture. But by June, this race will almost certainly be over. And this will also have a ripple effect all up and down the Democratic primary ballot. Hotly-contested presidential races bring out primary voters in large numbers.  With that race being over by the time the Ohio primary is finally held, voter turnout will certainly be much lower than it would have been otherwise, even with some voters presumably staying home over health concerns. With these lower turnouts, and particularly with younger or more progressive voters who favor Sen. Sanders less likely to show up, dozens of Democratic races for Congress, the state legislature, or county offices may well be affected. And this, in turn, could mean that many of these same voters might not turn out in November, helping the Governor’s party turn some tight elections.  This is wrong.

It’s wrong because the assumption of power in the hands of one person is inherently dangerous.  It’s wrong because he seemingly flouted the courts in achieving the delay in the primary. It’s wrong because he caused confusion in his clumsiness in waiting until the last minute to do anything about this when he could have moved last week, when he closed the restaurants and bars.  Or was it clumsiness? Did he really want to cause confusion as an aid to suppressing the vote? Who knows?

And, for that matter, his earlier actions in closing restaurants and bars and other private businesses are, at the most charitable, questionable.  It doesn’t matter, at the end of the day, whether you or I agree with these actions. It’s the manner in which they were taken that chills me to the bone.

Launching a provision to allow the recall of the governor and other state officials will be a daunting task.  Expensive, too. It would take an amendment to the Ohio Constitution, which would require hundreds of thousands of petition signatures, lawyers to ensure that the measure is written in such a way that would pass muster in the Secretary of State’s office, and millions and millions of dollars, first to complete the petitioning, then to drum up the support of Ohio voters. There is almost certainly no way of accomplishing it before the incumbent must stand for re-election in two years.

I would be satisfied if the proposed recall provision had pretty high hurdles to prevent frivolous use.  I certainly would not want to see a recall effort every time the political wind changes or every time an elected official does something unpopular.

But it needs doing.  Because even though we can’t hold the current Governor responsible until the next time he’s scheduled to face the voters anyway, it’s an iron-clad certainty that this won’t be the last time this governor, or some other, builds upon the precedent and decides not to let another crisis go to waste.

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