Editorial

Editorial: Recall elections wouldn't stop corruption

Members of the New York state Assembly hold

Members of the New York state Assembly hold a session at the Capitol in Albany, N.Y. (Credit: AP, 2011)

For New Yorkers fed up with a corruption-prone Capitol, the ability to toss out an elected leader may sound like an easy sell.

But as appetizing as a "recall" might seem, voters already have that ability: It's called an election. For members of the State Legislature, it happens every two years.

Responding to a series of federal indictments against state and local lawmakers, Assembly Republicans have introduced a bill to amend the state constitution to enable special elections to recall an officeholder. Recall supporters would need to collect signatures and get a sign-off from the governor. Such an amendment would require two approvals by the legislature as well as voter approval in a referendum.


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Recall elections are allowed in 19 states and the District of Columbia. Of 36 attempts to remove state legislators, fewer than half have succeeded. There were recall elections recently in California and Wisconsin with diverse results.

Under the proposal in Albany, initiating a recall would require collecting signatures equivalent to 20 percent of those who voted in the prior election in that district. The governor would then have the ability to call for an election within 180 days. The bill would also apply to local governments that don't already have this process.

The bill is flawed because there are no real criteria for which events would trigger a recall, allowing some officials who took an unpopular vote to face ouster midterm for no good reason other than having well-organized opponents. And there's the risk that it might just increase the amount of time leaders spend running for office, as opposed to governing.

Albany has its share of monumental problems, and there's no shortage of issues, including elections and campaign finance, that must be reformed. But this bill won't do much to clean up corruption.

Legislators ought to recall this proposal.

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