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How it works – and if it works

PAID petition workers, electoral commission officials vetting signatures and legal challenges are all part of the ”recall” process in the United States, where elected officials can be dumped before their term in office is due to expire.Sign the petition to reclaim your voteSupporters argue recall elections should form a natural part of democracy, while their opponents argue they make the state ungovernable. Either way, the concept of recall elections has been raised during the past year in countries with a well established democratic system, such as Britain and Australia.Recall election provisions are usually associated with the US, although they have long been a feature of government in a number of cantons in Switzerland, and they have spreading more recently to countries as diverse as Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, the Philippines and the province of British Columbia in Canada.Earlier this year the British Prime Minister, Gordon Brown, indicated a recall mechanism could be useful when dealing with gross financial misconduct, such as emerged there with the misuse of MPs’ allowances. This prompted a parliamentary debate which failed to win support for the notion, and a subsequent private member’s bill also failed.Even with a recall provision on the books in some states in the US, voters there have succeeded only twice in removing state governors from office, although there have been a number of successful attempts to force the re-election of individual legislators at state level.In California alone there have been 32 attempts to recall the governor since 1911. It has succeeded just once, in 2003 when the Hollywood actor Arnold Schwarzenegger was installed as governor. The other governor removed was in North Dakota in 1921.Venezuela is one of the few countries whose head can be recalled. It is not possible in the US, nor can any of its federal officials be recalled. While 36 American states allow recall votes for county or city officials, only 18 allow state legislators or governors to be recalled.Requirements for recalling politicians differ from state to state, but typically, for it to proceed, a petition must attract the support of 20 or 25 per cent of the votes cast in the previous election for the politician that electors are seeking to have withdrawn.To remove the Californian governor, a petition must be signed by 12 per cent of the number of votes cast in the previous election for governor.This can mean more people are needed to recall a governor or legislator, than elect his or her successor.Typically, a recall involves two stages: the first to obtain the number of signatures on the petition to force the recall vote, and then the vote itself to decide if the official should be recalled.A further vote is then taken on a replacement, presuming a majority of voters want the politician recalled.Sometimes, the process can be compressed. In the Philippines, for example, a successful recall petition is sufficient to trigger the byelection.This can limit the cost of a recall, but raise the potential level of voter confusion since one of the questions put forward would depend on the outcome of the other.The other cost is that an electoral commission must be ready at all times for byelections, which typically cost several hundred thousand dollars.Supporters of recall elections argue it keeps elected representatives focused on their need to maintain standards of behaviour while giving voters the power to dump politicians who neglect their duties or take unpopular decisions.Opponents argue the converse, that elected officials would be reluctant to take unpopular decisions for fear of being recalled by the electorate.And recalls are open to abuse. For example, organised groups can take advantage of fractured electorates, such as in marginal seats, to gain extra leverage to force politicians out of office.RECALLING THE GLOBAL VOTE California recalled governor Gray Davis in 2003, 10 months into his second term.North Dakota recalled its governor, Lynn Frazier, in 1921.36 US states allowed local officials to be recalled, and 18 extended it to state officials.Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez survived a recall referendum in 2004.
Nanjing Night Net