In this age of political discontent, recall elections are gaining popularity. While we have all heard about Scott Walker’s battle to keep his elected position, there are actually a total of 17 recall elections going on all across the country today: six in Wisconsin; three in Fullerton, California, three in Greenfield, California and five in Hermiston, Oregon!

In 2011, there were at least 150 recall elections held in the United States, with 75 officials ultimately recalled.  The year set a record for the number of state legislator recalls

As of today, there have already been 103 recall elections in 2012.  Recall Elections blogger Joshua Spivak has the breakdown:

  • 32 recalls resulted in a vote for removal. They took place in 17 different states
  • 14 recalls resulted in a resignation in the face of removal
  • 1 recall failed to get on the ballot, but the official resigned anyway
  • 1 recall saw the official die in office
  • 27 recalls resulted in the targeted official won the recall election
  • 30 are scheduled to take place between today and August
  • 6 instances, most notable El Paso, Texas, a judge rejected the recall.
  • 6 other instances, the targeted officials are either still fighting the recall in court or refusing to schedule one as a member of the city council.
  • 52 attempted recalls (at least) that failed to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.
  • 115 (at least) open and unresolved recall petitions circulating now (I may be off on this — in some of these, the recall might have been abandoned).

Are recall elections becoming the new recount — a tool used to try and disrupt the democratic process and challenge the authority bestowed upon an elected leader by voters?

Think about it — if you’re a Democrat incumbent from representing a traditionally Democrat-controlled district but a Republican challenger rode a wave of political discontent to victory during a presidential election year where high voter turnout worked in his favor, a recall election is probably the quickest way to win your seat back without having to wait until the next general election.  Motivated Dems turn out to the polls during an off-year election where GOP motivation is low and the decision of the majority of voters could be reversed in just a matter of months.

Here’s another way to think of it — instead of waiting to challenge Scott Walker when he comes up for reelection in 2014, Democrats are challenging him now.  Walker’s being forced to to dedicate his time, energy and money into holding onto his office today instead of being able to govern as a governor is elected to.  In essence, using a recall election in this case is akin to shrinking the term of governor down from four years to just two — all without having to amend state laws and/or constitutions.

While some states have implemented measures to limit recall elections, others — including Wisconsin — have not.  In Alaska, Georgia, Kansas, Minnesota, Montana, Rhode Island and Washington, proof of misconduct or malfeasance must be identified by petitioners in order for a recall election to move forward.  In these cases, the courts also get involved in case the target of the recall wishes to dispute the accusations.  The court then judges whether the allegations in the petition necessitate a recall.

After Illinois’ disgraced ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s corruption scandal, voters in Illinois approved an amendment to its state constitution to allow recall elections.  Meanwhile, 11 states in the union permit state-wide recall elections, but no grounds are required and elected officials may face recall for no reason… well, other than mere political disagreement.

If Walker is defeated today in Wisconsin, he will be only the third governor in all of U.S. history to be removed from office via recall — the others being California’s Grey Davis who was… er, Terminated in 2003 and North Dakota’s Lynn Frazier back in 1921.