House approves putting recall option on November ballot

April 8, 2008 4:38:15 PM PDT
Illinois voters may get a chance to decide if they want the power to recall elected public officials.A bill that puts that question on the November ballot passed the Illinois House Tuesday 75-33. The measure calls for a constitutional amendment that would allow a recall vote.

The recall amendment is described in political science terms as a way to get rid of a politician who hasn't done anything serious enough to warrant impeachment but is so unpopular he or she has to be booted out before the next election.

And here in Illinois, it is obviously aimed at Governor Rod Blagojevich, although the sponsor of the bill denies it. Fifteen other states do have a recall provision. But it's only been used to remove two governors in U.S. history.

"Our last governor is sitting in a federal penitentiary. Our current governor is mired in a number of federal and state investigations. The citizens need a way to take back their government," said State Rep. Jack Franks, (D) Woodstock.

Franks, the sponsor of the recall amendment, claims it is not directed at any specific politician. But he's been locked in a bitter feud with Blagojevich for several years and is obviously taking advantage of the anti-Blagojevich sentiment that continues to grow in Springfield and around the state.

"When things get this bad, when things are this dysfunctional, you have an opportunity. This government was founded on the principle that the people have a say. This gives them that say," said Franks.

The measure requires a two-thirds vote, but it still passes easily despite the concern of some lawmakers that it will become a political tool to harass and punish public officials frivolously for taking unpopular positions or not being likable enough.

"It's enough to recall if you don't like the way the governor blow dries his hair or you don't like the cuts of the attorney general's pant suits," said State Rep. Roger Eddy, (R) Hutsonville.

"The last thing we want to do to this institution, the senate, the legislature, is to politicize it even further," said State Rep. Barbara Flynn Curry, (D) House Majority Leader.

The road to recall now requires another two-thirds vote in the senate and then a majority of Illinois voters in November and finally 416,000 signatures on petitions to actually put the recall of a specific politician in front of the voters like California did in 2003 to remove another unpopular Democratic governor, Gray Davis.

"It's not illegal to be inept. But sometimes waiting for the next election is just waiting too long," said State Rep. Kurt Granberg, (D) Mt. Vernon.

Governor Blagojevich says, according to his office, that he agrees with the concept of recall because it does empower voters, but in this case he thinks that Jack Franks, a mortal political enemy, is guilty of political grandstanding.

The fate of the bill is unclear in the senate, where the president, Emil Jones, is a close friend and ally of Blagojevich and he controls what does and doesn't come up on the floor. So what happens on this one probably depends on public opinion and the political winds.

If a recall ever went into effect, it would apply to all the elected constitutional officers and the state legislature, no one at any local level. It's a long shot in Illinois because of the political dynamics, but definitely an embarrassment to the governor.

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