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Barron: Recall elections no longer a citizen’s tool
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Barron: Recall elections no longer a citizen’s tool

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CHEYENNE — Wyoming is missing out on all the partisan game playing going on with recall elections in other states.

First of all, Wyoming’s law allows recall elections only for city government commissioners. Wyoming currently has no city with the commission former of government. So Wyoming is not a player in this movement.

The omission of other elected officials makes no sense to me. If you accept the argument that early day lawmakers believed that people were so close to their elected officials that recall was unnecessary then why did they apply it only to the local commissioners who, arguably, were our closest elected officials?

But never mind. It’s done and I cannot imagine the majority of any modern day legislative body in Wyoming voting to make themselves subject to recall.

As I understand it, the original purpose of the recall election was to give citizens the power to oust an elected official provided they could collect enough signatures to support that move. It was a tool for citizens.

Today the political leaders have perverted the purpose and are using recall elections to restore their majorities in the state senates and state houses.

In Colorado, the Republican party is trying to get rid of a dozen Democratic state legislators through recall elections.

In last November’s elections, Democrats took over the state Senate and increased their majority in the state House.

In addition to the ten or 12 legislators, the newly elected governor, Jared Polis, may also face a recall, according to governing.com.

Polis was elected to succeed a much more moderate Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper.

Polis signed bills to impose new regulations on the oil an gas industry, tighten gun control and joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact to circumvent the Electoral College.

The Colorado Republicans claim the Democrats are pulling the state too far to the left.

Another GOP target, Democratic representative Tom Sullivan, was the lead sponsor of the state’s new “red flag” law which allows courts to remove firearms from the possession of people deemed a threat to themselves or others.

“It’s all clearly a strategy to undo elections,” said KC Becker the Democratic speaker of the Colorado House. “I think it is a partisan power play.”

Recalls have also taken place in California and Nevada.

In 2017, Nevada Republicans had recall attempts against three sitting senators including two Democrats and an Independent who caucused with the Democrats.

If it had succeeded it would have given control over the state Senate to the Republicans.

It failed, however because the sponsors did not collect enough signatures to require the recall elections.

In response, the Democratic controlled state Senate passed a bill to make future recalls more difficult. Rather than using statistical samples, the bill would require county clerks to verify every signature on recall petitions.

The Democrats have not had as much success in their recall efforts, particularly in Wisconsin during a fight over union restrictions.

In 2012 the Democrats failed to recall Republican Gov. Scott Walker. Walker lost his bid for a third term last November.

Currently about a dozen California Democratic legislators are targeted for recall with the aim of depriving Democrats of the two-thirds super majority they need to raise taxes.

Proponents of recall elections for all elected officials, like the American Civil Liberties Union, said it is a tool to keep elected officials accountable and gives power to citizens.

It was never intended to be used as a partisan power tool.

Harking back to 2013, recall the debacle that was the attempt by Republican Gov. Matt Mead and legislative leaders to demote Republican tea partier Cindy Hill from her elected position as state superintendent of public instruction.

The effort might have been easier through a recall election if that tool had been available.

It would at least have been less messy than the legal morass that ended with the Wyoming Supreme Court ruling in favor of Hill in a split 3-2 decision.

Joan Barron is a former longtime capitol bureau reporter. Contact her at 307-632-2534 or

jmbarron@bresnan.net.

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