Signing a petition at a rally for health care reform in Denver.

Initiativereferendum, and recall enable voters, by petition, to propose or repeal legislation, or to remove an elected official from office. Eighteen states permit the recall of state officials; NYS does not. The recall of California Governor Gray Davis in 2003 was a recent instance of recall.

It is unlikely that US Senators and Representatives can be recalled under state law.

  • In 1967 US Senator Frank Church was the subject of an unsuccessful recall effort. Courts ruled that a federal official is not subject to state recall laws.
  • In 2009 Joseph Cao, U.S. representative for Louisiana’s 2nd congressional district, was found ineligible for recall.

The United States Constitution does not provide for  recall of United States officers such as Senators, Representatives, or the President or Vice President. No member of Congress has ever been recalled.

The Constitution does provide two methods for removing a President.

  • Impeachment
  • Twenty-fifth Amendment

Neither of these is very practical nor has been successfully used; either would be controversial, most likely. Recall, if it were possible, might allow the removal of a President without partisan wrangling–a vote of the people would avoid the appearance of partisan unfairness.

About whungerford

* Contributor at where we discuss the politics, economics, and events of the New New York 23rd Congressional District (Allegany, Cattaraugus, Chautauqua, Chemung, (Eastern) Ontario, Schuyler, Seneca, Steuben,Tioga, Tompkins, and Yates Counties) Please visit and comment on whatever strikes your fancy.
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8 Responses to Recall

  1. Rynstone says:

    You are right, NY State voters do not have the power of the “Recall”
    The NY State Governor and State Legislators will never give us the power of the “Recall”

    I have been talking to many NY State Legislators since 2010 about moving forward with “Recall” legislation with absolutely no support. They all say it’s a nice idea but it will never happen and none take up the fight to draft the legislation.

    The Recall effort was used not that long ago against WI Governor Scott Walker


  2. whungerford says:

    Gary, would you favor a Constitutional Amendment that would allow Federal office holders including the President to be recalled? Why or why not?


  3. josephurban says:

    I don’t like the idea of a recall because it would lead to constant political strife. As soon as one party lost an election they would start collecting signatures to recall the winner. It would be chaotic. Can you imagine the constant recall efforts against Obama? Against every governor of every state. Against every representative. The terms of office are short enough for most elected officials that recalls are not a good idea. Just vote them out of office.


  4. whungerford says:

    I am not aware that States with recall laws have experienced chaos. I agree that voting the bums out is a good solution to the problem of unsatisfactory officials, but this is easier said than done. Presidents have extraordinary powers, and the need for extraordinary relief led to the possibility of impeachment and to the Twenty-fifth Amendment. However, these measures are of little practical use; they have never been successfully used. If Constitutional checks and balances worked better to protect against a rogue President, that might be enough.

    In the case of President Nixon, facts came out after the 1972 election that might have prevented his reelection had they been known earlier. Recall of a dangerous President could make it possible for the people, rather than their representatives or administration officials, to correct a mistake without risking disaster for up to four years.


  5. Rynstone says:

    Recall can be a double edged sword and cost the taxpayers tons of money in the long run. I would like to see it with certain parameters for all offices except the Presidency.


  6. whungerford says:

    Gary, I wonder why you “would like to see it with certain parameters for all offices except the Presidency,” even though it “can be a double edged sword and cost the taxpayers tons of money in the long run.”


  7. josephurban says:

    Classic example of recall. Gov Davis of California. Recall effort spent millions to get it on the ballot. Not for any misconduct on his part, simply because the wealthy energy industry folks did not like his policies. Distorted the issues. Spread fake news. Ended up with Schwartzenegger as governor.
    Recall effort was manipulated by the losers who have the big bucks to collect the petitions and fund the massive negative ad campaigns. (Rep Issa gave $2,000,000 to the campaign)
    The energy markets were manipulated by the oil/gas companies. the blame then went to the governor. The energy companies got rid of him.
    A very good explanation of the scam is too long to post, but this article is instructive:


  8. whungerford says:

    I agree that the Gray Davis recall is instructive, but I draw a different conclusion. Rather than blame recall, I blame the other factors mentioned–money, special interests, fake news–the same factors that influence other elections. No doubt recall may sometimes do harm, but it may also sometimes do good.

    As Churchill noted, democracy may be messy. In the ancient Athenian democracy, I believe, whatever the people wanted was law, however cruel or unjust. Still, we may prefer democracy to alternative forms of government–government by a Donald Trump cult comes to mind as an undesirable alternative.

    Another issue with elections is the tendency of voters to prefer candidates with familiar names. While Schwartzenegger may not have been a bad choice, entertainers may often lack knowledge and experience necessary for good government. There is at least one notorious example still in office today.

    Particularly in the case of a president, where the potential for disaster is great, it might be better to recall a president from time to time for weak reasons than to have no recourse in case of dire need.


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