Total Recall

The topic of Presidential impeachment has been raised once again. Ralph Nader said in an interview on Democracy Now that President Obama should be impeached for the same reasons that President George W. Bush should have been impeached. Though, I’m not holding my breath for the Congress to act on impeachment. I began to think of alternate ways to remove an elected official that has violated their oath of office. Most people will say, “We have a way of removing them; we just have to wait until the election.” Just imagine if you owned a business and were bound to your employees for two, four or six years regardless of how they performed. Surely, if they were bad employees, you’d want to find a way to remove them from the position.

Currently 19 States permit the recall of state officials and in at least 29 States (some sources place this number at 36), recall elections may be held in local jurisdictions.(National Conference of State Legislatures) However State laws on recall do not affect Federal Officials, so it’s not possible to remove a member of Congress except during the biannual election (6 years for a Senator ) and no law allows the President to be recalled.

I may have a solution, although I’m not going to hold my breath for it to be implemented; and it’s not entirely my idea – rather, it’s taken from the ideas of Edmund Randolph and William Patterson. During the Constitutional Convention in 1787, Randolph’s “Virginia Plan” proposed that ”members of the first branch of the National Legislature ought to be elected by the people of the several States… and to be subject to recall.” Patterson’s “New Jersey Plan” proposed “that the U[nited] States in Cong[res]s be authorized to elect a federal Executive to consist of persons, to continue in office for the term of years… to be ineligible a second time, & removable (sic) by Cong[res]s on application by a majority of the Executives of the several States.”

Imagine if instead of waiting two years to vote against your incumbent member of Congress (assuming there is a suitable candidate opposing him) you were able to vote against that member of Congress after a suitable petition was filed to recall him. Also try to imagine that you were able to petition your State Legislature to petition Congress to recall the President. The former, recall of Congressmen, could be allowed simply by an Act of Congress since Article 1 Section 4 says, “Congress may at any time by law make or alter such regulations” related to the “times, places and manner of holding elections for Senators and Representatives.” I propose that Congress pass a law allowing members of Congress to be recalled if a petition for recall is signed by one thousand (1,000) eligible voters. After the petition has been filed, a recall election shall be held within 180 days with voters being asked two questions; the first question on the ballot is whether the official should be recalled; voters are then asked to vote for a candidate for the office and the official who is the subject of the recall may not be listed among these candidates. As for recall of the President, this would require a Constitutional Amendment. Instead of the “application by a majority of the Executives of the several States,” as proposed by Mr. Patterson, I propose the Congress to introduce a Constitutional Amendment that would allow the President to be recalled upon the combined application of three-fifths of State Legislatures and/or State Governors. Though this method of Presidential recall would be more akin to an alternate method of impeachment; the President is removed from office and the Vice President becomes the new President.

I admit these proposals aren’t perfect – in a perfect world there would be no “rulers.” But, I digress; these recall proposals are a way for the people to remove elected officials that refuse to remove themselves, which is essentially what “impeachment” is – asking elected officials to remove one of their own for violating the oath of office which nearly every member of the Congress has done. The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) explains,“recall… provides a way for citizens to retain control over elected officials who are not representing the best interests of their constituents, or who are unresponsive or incompetent. This view holds that an elected representative is an agent or a servant and not a master.”