Editorial: Recall reforms neededThe recently completed recall elections conducted across Wisconsin were an interesting exercise in the democratic process.
The recently completed recall elections conducted across Wisconsin were an interesting exercise in the democratic process.
In the end, two new Democratic senators were elected to the Wisconsin State Senate, giving the Republicans a slim 17-16 majority in that legislative body.
In the wake of the recalls, both sides were quick to declare victory. The Democrats said their success in two legislative races showed voters were fed up with the way majority Republicans were conducting business in Madison. The Republicans also declared victory, noting the party continues to control both the assembly and senate, along with the office of governor. They said it was proof voters still want state reforms to continue.
No matter what side one believes was the winner, one thing remains clear. The loser in the whole situation was the voter.
Elections continue to bombard voters on a regular basis. As the debate rages and the negative campaign tactics mount, voters tend to become disenfranchised with the whole democratic process. People become overwhelmed by the onslaught of political messages.
And, with the recent recalls, the campaign messages were even more negative than a typical election battle.
Even though large numbers of voters cast their ballot in the recent local election, one has to wonder if the battle was all worth it.
Since the election ended, there have been some who have suggested Wisconsin’s recall rules should be fine-tuned. We would agree.
Wisconsin needs to return some sense of stability to its political system. Elected officials, who have been chosen to represent the local voters in Madison, should be left alone to complete their appointed terms without the threat of such political reprisals.
Voters should retain the power to recall elected officials, but the ability to conduct such efforts should be limited to those people who have broken the law, those who have been found guilty of ethics violations or those who have generally proven themselves unfit for public office. None of the senators who faced recent recall elections, neither Republican nor Democrat, did anything making the need for their removal a top priority.
That’s why we think a Wisconsin constitutional measure is in order to place some restrictions on when a public official can be recalled.
Right now, recall efforts can be undertaken for no cause if the required number of signatures is gathered.
The ability to recall elected officials at any time for any reason throws our political system into utter turmoil. Such uncertainty in the political landscape harms our state, and it harms the state’s election process.
By establishing criminal and ethical wrong-doing as the standard for future recall efforts, Wisconsin would hopefully avoid recalls based on policy disagreements and political differences. That would be a good thing for this state.