Recall elections — part of the "new normal"?

A story in this morning’s LA Times, “Recall elections surge in local and state governments”, got me thinking about recall elections again. The surge in recall elections is fueled in part by events in Wisconsin, but as the story points out there has been a similar surge in mayoral recall elections, and in attempts to recall legislators in a number of states.

One issue this story does not discuss, however, are the effects of recall elections on election administration. Recall elections are not necessarily the easiest elections to administer, as I pointed in out in an article with Melanie Goodrich, Thad Hall, Rod Kiewiet and Sarah Sled, “The Complexity of the California Recall Election.” Our paper did not attempt to exhaustively study the administrative issues associated with running recall elections, but we did look at:

  • Polling place problems introduced by the 2003 California recall.
  • Problems of translating the recall ballot.
  • How the long recall ballot influenced voter behavior.
  • And voter difficulties with the recall ballot.

Nor did we discuss in that paper the expense of running a recall election.

Many lessons were learned here in California in the wake of the 2003 recall election, and I hope that administrators elsewhere who are faced with running recall elections as part of the “new normal” will consult with their colleagues here in California, and take a look at some of the research that has been done in recall elections in the past few years (I wrote about some of that research in a recent blog post, “Wisconsin Recall Elections — Lessons from the 2003 California Recall”).