LETTER TO THE EDITOR: The need for recall provisions in Delaware

The Preamble of the Delaware Constitution explicitly states that all government power ultimately stems from the people. This simply means that government is a public trust, and our elected officials are our servants and not our masters. The question arises as to what remedies are available to the people if an elected official seriously violates his/her oath of office by failing to uphold the U.S. and state constitutions, or commits other gross malfeasance or scandalous conduct in violation of the public trust.

In Delaware, options are limited to impeachment by the General Assembly and voting them out in the election at the normal expiration of their terms of office.

In exceptionally bad cases of public corruption or incompetence, these are limited options. Accordingly, another option is needed to restore a proper balance of power between the electorate and elected public officials. This mechanism is known as recall.

Currently, 38 states have some form of recall that enables voters to remove elected officials during their terms for gross misconduct or other failure to uphold their oath of office. Nine states have complete recall provisions that also apply to their federal congressional delegations, and 29 have partial recall mechanisms that apply to state and local elected officials.

Ten states, including Delaware, have no recall provisions. However, given increasing distrust of government in the wake of special-interest-dominated, insider-driven politics as usual, various abuses of power, instances of financial mismanagement, etc., the idea is gaining popularity in the First State.

Recall is essentially a petition-based process. The exact procedures vary from state to state, but they generally involve organized (labor-intensive) petition drives. The process is initiated when a requisite number of qualified signatures of duly registered voters is gathered and conveyed to the supervising state election agency.

After verification of the signatures, a special recall election is then held after a specified period of time. Recall petitions usually require specific grounds such as corruption, incompetence, malfeasance, abuse of power, etc., as defined by statute and are not to be used casually for arbitrary partisan purposes.

Proponents of recall strongly advocate that giving the people an additional power to remove elected officials, for just cause, improves government and increases overall public integrity by setting political limits on defective performance of elected officials.

Opponents have argued that recall establishes a form of direct democracy that runs contrary to the intent and framework of a representative constitutional republic. However, given the large amount of work involved in circulating recall petitions, recall of elected officials generally occurs under exceptional circumstances, so, the representative form of democracy remains intact.

Ultimately, it is up to the people of Delaware to decide by electing state legislators who advocate recall. It is interesting to note that both of the “major” parties in Delaware do not include initiative, referendum or recall in their platforms. In contrast, the Independent Party of Delaware (IPoD) has advocated initiative, referendum and recall since its inception in 2000.

Further information on recall can be obtained at www.recalltherogues.org/states.html.

The IPoD platform is available at www.independendentpartyofdelaware.com.

Don Ayotte
Chairman of the
Independent Party of Delaware

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