Ill. voters get to decide on recall of governors

October 15, 2009 (SPRINGFIELD, Ill.) The Senate's vote means a constitutional amendment will be placed on the ballot in November 2010. If it passes, Illinois will adopt a convoluted mechanism for recalling governors seen as corrupt or incompetent.

"The very best way to make sure the governor does the right thing all the time is to have in our constitution the power of recall," said Gov. Pat Quinn, who took office in January after his predecessor, Rod Blagojevich, was impeached. "I think we will see this is the ultimate ethics measure."

Blagojevich was ousted after he was accused of trying to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat. He has pleaded not guilty, and his federal trial is set to start in June.

Another former governor and Blagojevich's predecessor, George Ryan, is serving a six-year prison sentence after he was convicted in 2006 of federal corruption charges involving a scam to illegally sell licenses to truck drivers while he was secretary of state.

Two other past governors have also gone to prison in the past three decades. Otto Kerner, governor from 1961 to 1968, was convicted of bribery after he left office. Dan Walker, who served from 1973 to 1977, was convicted on charges related to financial dealings after he left office. The recall proposal is narrow and complex.

It wouldn't cover any public official except for governor. The recall process could not start unless 30 lawmakers -- 15 from each party -- sign affidavits in support. Proponents would have to collect hundreds of thousands of signatures on a petition. The exact number would be 15 percent of the votes cast in the previous election for governor.

If all those conditions were met, a special election would be held to decide whether a governor is booted out of office. A new governor would be chosen later in another special election.

The Illinois House, after the proposal was narrowed to apply only to the governor, signed off on the amendment earlier this year as part of a package of ethics legislation in the wake of Blagojevich's arrest and removal from office.

The Senate approved it 56-1 on Thursday. Despite the lopsided vote, several senators expressed concerns.

They warned that special interest groups could back recall efforts to get rid of a governor who challenged them. They predicted governors would be more timid about taking action that might be unpopular but necessary.

State Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, said Illinois officials already fear the shadow of their next election. If a governor faces the possibility of a recall election, he said, "that shadow is upon you at all times."

The amendment is HJRCA31.

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