This November, Illinois voters will have the opportunity to vote on an amendment to the state constitution that has been dubbed the Illinois Governor Recall Amendment. This would, in theory, allow voters to recall a governor from office by petitioning for a special election for that purpose. 18 states currently have recall for statewide elected officials, Illinois would become the 19th.
After the arrest of Rod Blagojevich, the impeached former governor, voters all but demanded this power. Legislators responded by diluting the provision as much as possible to render it to a form in which it will never be able to be used by voters in any plausible circumstance.
First, the recall amendment only applies to the Governor. Illinois would be the only state to limit recall to just the Governor. It would require a petition of 15% of the number of voters from the last gubernatorial election. In reality, this is about 1 million signatures due to Illinois’ famed election code. Those aren’t the worst provisions.
What is the most absurd feature of this amendment is that before a single one of those signatures can be gathered, voters need to get a signed permission slip from 30 legislators (half coming from the Governor’s own party). You can imagine the likelihood that legislators would sign such a document against their party’s own governor.
Up to the moment he was arrested, Blagojevich enjoyed unanimous support in the state Senate from his party and near-unanimous support from the state House. If a recall amendment would not have been able to be used against Rod Blagojevich, what good is it?
The fear in letting voters just be able to recall a governor was that “special interests” would spend tons of money to put pressure on a Governor to play ball their way. Nevermind that 18 states have had recall for over a century and it has never happened. Nevermind that while voters may disagree with an elected leaders, they are reluctant to just throw them out of office. These evil special interests must be stopped by … limiting the power of voters! We’ll just gloss over the fact that these “special intersts” already have full access to our elected leaders, we will stop them by locking the voters out.
It is a patent absurdity for a state constitution to be used not to check the power of government, but to check the power of the people. This amendment is an exercise in permission slip democracy. Voters can voice their opinion only when they get a signed letter from their mama politicians giving them permission.
Hopefully the voters in Illinois see through this sham on November 2nd.