Evanstonians young and old gathered in the Civic Center’s Parasol Room last Thursday evening for a non-partisan discussion on the proposed Illinois Constitutional Amendment providing for the recall of the Governor by petition of the state’s electors, and the election of a successor Governor. The discussion was organized by the Evanston League of Women Voters.
The proposed amendment will be put to vote at the Nov. 2 General Election. Three-fifths of those voting on the question, or a majority of those voting in the election, must vote “yes” in order for the proposed amendment to become effective.
Illinois State Senator Susan Garrett spoke in favor of the proposed amendment, while State Representative Barbara Flynn Currie spoke in opposition.
“The reason why I am for a recall is because I look at it as insurance,” said Senator Garrett. “It’s important to have the ability to recall a governor in case of extreme situations, like what we were faced with.”
Sen. Garrett also said she believes that having a recall measure in place would deter future governors from improper behavior, because they would know that voters would have the option to remove him or her from office. However, she also acknowledged that one of the strengths of the proposed amendment is that several factors must be met in order to recall a governor.
“That is important. You wouldn’t want a recall measure as part of our Constitution that makes it easy to remove a governor. It should be a difficult process,” Sen. Garrett said.
For example, according to the proposed amendment, in order to recall a governor, an affidavit declaring intent must be filed with the State Board of Elections no sooner than six months after the beginning of a governor’s term. That affidavit must have the signature of 20 members of the Illinois House of Representatives, and 10 members of the Illinois Senate. No more than 50 percent of the signatures can be from members of the same political party. Further, the number of petition signatures required is 15 percent of the total votes cast for Governor in the preceding election, and all signatures must be collected within 150 days. Additionally, 100 of those signatures must come from each of at least 25 of Illinois’ 102 counties.
“We should have something in place, especially based on the fact that Illinois has had some problems in the past with governors,” Sen. Garrett said, referring to the impeachment of former governor Rod Blagojevich for corruption and misconduct in 2009, and the imprisonment of former governor George Ryan for corruption in 2007.
Representative Currie said she disagreed that an electorate recall is the solution to prior gubernatorial issues. “Illinois is not quite the wild west of recall in California, Oregon and some of the other western states,” Rep. Currie said.
In her counter, Rep. Currie emphasized that a recall amendment would put Illinois on a slippery slope. “Once we say recall is a good idea, then, open sesame, the next proposition on the Illinois ballot would be to extend recall to every elected official including the dog catcher.”
Rep. Currie also emphasized that the possibility of recall would hinder public officials from making the best possible decisions, as they would pay more attention to popular political whims and less heed to what their conscience, and the Constitution, guides them to do. “If you look back in the 1960s, there was a recall of a mayor in a Midwestern municipality, and he got recalled because he said we had to racially integrate,” said Rep. Currie.
“I agree that the opportunity to throw a rascal out is seductive,” said Rep. Currie. “However, this is very deceptive. Recall isn’t formed in a political vacuum. It offers the party who lost in an election a second, maybe a third and possibly a fourth bite at the apple.”