As armies of union sympathizers paraded around the Wisconsin Capitol in 2011, they often chanted, “This is what democracy looks like!” Yet when Democrats and organized labor undertook an effort to recall Gov. Scott Walker for virtually eliminating most public employees’ ability to collectively bargain, it looked nothing like what democracy had ever looked like or was intended to. In 1926, voters approved a change to the Wisconsin Constitution that provided for the recall of state officials if a petitioner could gather 25% of the signatures cast in the previous gubernatorial election for the relevant district. The change was one of a number of progressive initiatives intended to reduce the effect of money in politics and lessen the influence of special interests. In Wisconsin’s history, only two state elected officials had been successfully recalled before 2011. Nationally, only two governors have ever been recalled from office. Yet in 2012, Wisconsin will be seeing its 15th recall election in the span of one year.
Recall supporters defended the sudden use of recalls as simply part of the democratic process. “The exercise of the constitutionally guaranteed right to force a recall election is a just and proper tool to force accountability upon those elected officials who act as if there is none,” explained the Democratic Party of Wisconsin’s website. But a review of documents and press accounts from the time the recall constitutional amendment passed shows that the current use of the recall is far different from what the original drafters had envisioned.
For instance, it was never expected that the recall would apply to governors. When the recall amendment passed in 1926, all state officials except state senators had two-year terms. For the same reason, current two-year term Assembly representatives are not the subject of recall attempts; it wouldn’t have made sense to hold a recall election against a governor in May when he was up for election in November.
Full Article: Not what they meant democracy to look like – JSOnline.