A recall election is a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office. Along with the initiative and referendum, it was one of the major electoral reforms advocated by leaders of the Progressive movement in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
The movement in California was spearheaded by then-Governor Hiram Johnson as a "precautionary measure by which a recalcitrant official can be removed". It was instituted as a way for the populace to fight back against political corruption and the powerful railroads and banks, which had enormous influence on state governments.
Eighteen U.S. states today allow the recall of state officials, but, before 2003, only one Governor had ever been successfully recalled. In 1921, North Dakota's Lynn J. Frazier was recalled over a dispute about state-owned industries.
Until Gray Davis's recall in October 2003, no California statewide official had ever been recalled, though there were 117 previous attempts. Only seven of those attempts even made it onto the ballot, all for state legislators. In California, every Governor since Ronald Reagan in 1968 has been subject to a recall effort, but none until Gray Davis, the 37th Governor of California, had to face a special recall election. In 2003, several million citizens petitioned the government for a gubernatorial recall election.
The Canadian province of British Columbia has representative recall. In that province, voters in a provincial riding can petition to have a sitting representative removed from office, even a Premier presently leading a government. If enough voters sign the petition, a referendum takes place, and if a successful by-election follows as soon as possible, it gives the opportunity to replace the politician in question. Fourteen United States states have similar measures in their constitutions — and many more municipalities — but generally these measures fail to operate more readily than in British Columbia, which in January 2003 achieved a record twenty-two such recall efforts (all of which ultimately failed, however).
Recall in the Venezuelan constitution of 1999
Article 72 of the 1999 Constitution of Venezuela enables a recall of any elected representative, including the president, and has been used in the Venezuelan recall referendum, 2004:
- Article 72: All [...] offices filled by popular vote are subject to revocation.
- Once one-half of the term of office to which an official has been elected has elapsed, a number of voters representing at least 20% of the registered voters in the affected constituency may petition for the calling of a referendum to revoke that official's mandate.
- When a number of voters equal to or greater than the number of those who elected the official vote in favour of the recall, provided that a number of voters equal to or greater than 25% of the total number of registered voters vote in the recall referendum, the official's mandate shall be deemed revoked and immediate action shall be taken to fill the permanent vacancy as provided for by this Constitution and by law.
List of recall elections