Throw Da Bums Out

Recall Campaigns - Mike Keefe Political Cartoon, 09/13/2013Voters in Northern Virginia are having their choices for elective office challenged by several recall efforts involving school board and county attorney/prosecutor officials. Not surprisingly, the recalls have strong under- and overtones of politics, the type being nurtured as stalking issues on the national scene. The prospect is ripe and rife with opportunity for Virginia Democrats to damage national Republican messaging.

The school board challenges largely focus on allegations of plans to introduce critical race theory (CRT) into curricula, while Commonwealth’s attorneys are said to be “soft on crime,” having campaigned on reform of criminal justice matters. In all instances, the local officials are Democrats and the recall momentum is Republican- and conservative-inspired, with roots in national GOP campaign planks. It does not appear to be an accident that the timing of the recall efforts will likely culminate in October as the Commonwealth’s odd-year election date is November 2, 2021, offering maximum electoral impact.  

While Democrats are reasonably concerned for the potential loss of officials they worked to elect, they might take a step back to appreciate that recall efforts are founded in a democratic process and procedure, as opposed to the truly nonsensical “big lie” campaign to challenge the 2020 election and motivate voting restrictions in a number of states.

While Democrats are reasonably concerned for the potential loss of officials they worked to elect, they might take a step back to appreciate that recall efforts are founded in a democratic process and procedure, as opposed to the truly nonsensical “big lie” campaign to challenge the 2020 election and motivate voting restrictions in a number of states. Recall is a difference that is distinct, creating a pre- and post-election opportunity to test candidate performance. In addition, the recall contests promote debate concerning the post-election policies of the elected candidates, as well as the discharge of their duties while in office.

In 1975, the Virginia General Assembly passed legislation that governs the removal of state and local officers, both elected and appointed, except those whose removal from office is specifically provided for in the Virginia Constitution. The statute provides acceptable reasons for recall, where such alleged conduct has “material adverse effect upon the conduct of the officer.” These may include neglect of duty, misuse of office, incompetence in performance, conviction of a drug misdemeanor, or conviction of a misdemeanor involving a “hate crime.”

Finally, the petition for recall must state the grounds for application and be accompanied by signatures representing 10% of the people who voted in the last election. The county circuit court is the first venue to review the petition. At that juncture, there is at least one procedural hurdle. The statute provides that the Commonwealth’s attorney shall represent the state and, since three of them are the subject of recall efforts (Arlington, Fairfax, and Loudoun), that determination is in question and/or the subject of recusals.

Rough estimates for the required number of signatures are about 5,000 in Arlington, 29,000 in Fairfax, and 11,500 in Loudoun. Whatever the results of the signature drive and court determinations, the recall is a legitimate, popular tool for redressing citizen complaints. The partisan nature of these current efforts only contributes to a more rational dialogue about the issues involved and enhances civic engagement. This legislated reform is preferable to the unregulated “fraudit” measures in Maricopa County, Arizona, and those threatened in several other states.

Democracy may be messy but the bizarre behaviors arising from the 2020 election are chaotic and anti-democratic. Supporters of the targeted officials must bear this in mind as they seek to counter the recalls and, at the same time, campaign in the coming months for November.

Democracy may be messy but the bizarre behaviors arising from the 2020 election are chaotic and anti-democratic. Supporters of the targeted officials must bear this in mind as they seek to counter the recalls and, at the same time, campaign in the coming months for November. The time, money, and energy expended for recall may, in fact, benefit the local Democratic incumbents and simultaneously the party’s more comprehensive statewide campaign.

If da bums are not thrown out, then the people will have spoken and democracy will have succeeded.



Categories: CIVIL RIGHTS, EDUCATION, elections, FREE SPEECH, Issues, legislature, Local, National, political parties, politics, prosecutors, republicans, RULE OF LAW, State

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