Generally it takes a extremely charged political occasion to immediate elected officers to do the precise factor.
Such is the case in Alameda County, the place the Board of Supervisors is contemplating inserting on the March poll a constitution change that will revamp the method for recalling elected officers.
The transfer has prompted accusations that it’s pushed by an try and undermine the recall of the county’s controversial new district legal professional, Pamela Worth. Regardless of the motivation, the recall has highlighted that the recall course of underneath the county constitution for petition signature-gathering and subsequent countywide balloting is a large number.
It’s unlucky that the proposed change comes in the course of the signature-gathering effort for the recall. However, given the timing, it’s unsure whether or not the brand new guidelines would apply to the present recall effort.
That stated, the proposed constitution change, with a key clarification, deserves assist of the Board of Supervisors and voters countywide.
To their credit score, relatively than attempting to rewrite the constitution, the proposed change would merely command the county to observe state guidelines that apply to counties with out their very own charters. That is sensible and may remove any claims that supervisors are attempting to impose a politically pushed construction distinctive to Alameda County.
In keeping with County Counsel Donna Ziegler, of the 14 counties within the state which have their very own constitution, three don’t have any recall provisions of their very own, which suggests they robotically observe state regulation, and the remaining seek advice from and incorporate state regulation to control their remembers.
Alameda County is the outlier, the one constitution county with recall provisions that utterly deviate from state regulation.
The result’s that, for remembers, the county depends on practically century-old constitution provisions, a few of that are unconstitutional underneath subsequent court docket rulings. Different provisions are merely not sensible given the present dimension of the county.
For instance, the present county constitution permits election officers solely 10 days to confirm in all probability greater than 100,000 recall petition signatures. The ten-day timeframe may need made sense when the county was a lot smaller a century in the past and the signature requirement was consequently far much less. Nevertheless it’s ridiculous immediately.
The present constitution requires a recall election to happen inside 30-45 days of the county Board of Supervisors calling the election. Given the county dimension, with greater than 900,000 voters, that’s an unrealistic timeframe to handle all of the poll and polling preparations.
Opponents, led by legal professional Jason Bezis and the Alameda County Taxpayers’ Affiliation, elevate three objections to the proposed constitution change.
First, they observe that the change would enhance the variety of legitimate signatures wanted to qualify a recall. That’s true. However that’s not essentially a foul factor. Remembers needs to be reserved for really egregious conduct, not merely political unhappiness with an elected official.
Furthermore, the quantity of the rise — from 15% of the vote solid inside the county for governor on the final election to 10% of all registered voters — whereas not insignificant, isn’t unreasonable. For a countywide election, that will enhance the variety of signatures wanted from about 73,000 to 92,000.
Second, the change would give the county Board of Supervisors the ability to nominate a short lived successor who must subsequently stand for election, relatively than the alternative being chosen within the recall election. Whereas neither system is ideal, we have now seen with statewide gubernatorial remembers the mischief and silliness that ensues when the query of recall and alternative are on the identical poll.
Third, Bezis argues the wording of the proposed poll measure would remove the present constitution provision that allows voters to recall “appointive” county officers, such because the county administrator, public works director, elections chief or county counsel.
Bezis appears to be appropriate that the poll measure wording would remove that provision. That’s as a result of the important thing phrase within the measure, referring to “appointed” county officers, doesn’t match the time period used within the present county constitution. The poll measure would doubtless be interpreted to solely embody individuals appointed to elective workplace vacancies.
Earlier than inserting the measure on the poll, county supervisors ought to remove any ambiguity and clarify their intention. That might take away the potential for future litigation and supply readability for voters.
However, if the intention is, as Bezis states, to remove the potential for recalling “appointive” county officers, that will be a great factor. These appointive officers ought to solely be accountable to the Board of Supervisors. They’re not elected by voters. They need to be capable to function professionally with out concern of getting to fend off remembers, with out having to mount political campaigns to maintain their nonpolitical jobs.
In sum, the proposed constitution change would deliver the county recall course of into the twenty first century, into conformance with the remainder of the state, with out having to hammer out distinctive wording that will be topic to claims of political motivation.
Supervisors, after fixing the paradox within the proposed poll measure to guard nonelected authorities officers from politically charged remembers, ought to put it earlier than voters. And voters ought to approve it.