One difference between Illinois and states where voters expect to have a say in government is that we’ve never had a recall election. Eighteen states allow recall elections for legislators and governors, and most states permit voters to recall local officials. But Illinois only passed its first recall law last year, when voters approved a referendum to recall the governor. It was retroactively aimed at Rod Blagojevich, and it’s probably unconstitutional.
On Tuesday, Wisconsin voters recalled two Republican state senators who’d voted for the controversial bill to strip collective bargaining rights from public employee unions. The Democrats needed to pick off one more Republican to take control of the senate. It would have been the second time in American history that a recall election has changed control of a legislative body: in 1983, two Democratic state senators in Michigan were recalled after voting to increase the state income tax.
Which leads to the question: what if Illinoisans could recall their state legislators? Gov. Pat Quinn passed his income tax hike during this year’s lame-duck session, when newly re-elected legislators had nearly two years before facing the voters again. In the senate, where the bill passed 31-27, Quinn got the votes of suburban Democrats such as Terry Link, A.J. Wilhelmi, and Maggie Crotty. They could conceivably have been targeted by Tea Partiers in their districts.
The Wisconsin recalls are a symptom of a hyper-partisan era in which neither party is ever able to accept defeat, and will use any tactic to overturn a lost election. The impeachment of President Bill Clinton and the recall of California Gov. Gray Davis were other examples. Davis called his recall an effort by Republicans “to steal elections they cannot win.”
Politics is already a never-ending preoccupation in Illinois. Gubernatorial elections are followed by mayoral elections are followed by primary elections. We have enough elections, without adding recalls.
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