The case for recall

With all the shenanigans in Christchurch is it time that we considered recall legislation?

I think so, and I will explain why.

At the moment there are many commentators, myself included calling for some sort of action in Christchurch. You have rogue councillors, an inept Mayor, an out of control and indifferent Chief Executive and the reality that no one but the Minister of Local Government having any power to anything more than just moan about the issues.

If someone dares suggest that a Commissioner be appointed then they are called anti-democratic. Imagine the outcry if the Minister actually did do that. Sacking councils seems unreasonable except via the ballot box but all too often that is 3 long years away.

It seems then that instead of action we get inaction, ineptitude and costs all for the want of action against the fools and wastrels for three years.

Democracy needs to be more immediate than that. What better way to hand power back to the people than with recall elections. The Minister doesn’t have to wield draconian laws, the people actually get a say and the inept and the wasteful get tossed from office.

What is there not to like about recall elections? Except perhaps the cost of them…but it seems a small price to pay for ridding a city or electorate of a fool.

In Switzerland, the recall rules differ for each canton but the mechanism is similar. Cantons that allow recall must have a petition with valid signatures of between 2 and 13% of the roll in order to trigger a recall referendum. By and large the mechanism has n’t been used in Switzerland but the facility is on the law books should the need arise.

The United States is the most prolific for recall elections.Famously Arnold Swarzenegger won a recall election after Governor Gray Davis became just the second Governor in history to be recalled in 2003.

Under California law, any elected official may be the target of a recall campaign. To trigger a recall election, proponents of the recall must gather a certain number of signatures from registered voters within a certain time period. The number of signatures statewide must equal 12% of the number of votes cast in the previous election for that office. For the 2003 recall election, that meant a minimum of 897,156 signatures, based on the November 2002 statewide elections, but 1.2 million were needed to ensure that there were enough valid signatures.

It would seem fair to suggest that if we were to institute recall legislation that perhaps a threshold of 10% of electors be required to trigger a recall election. So for an electorate that would mean between 5-6000 valid signatures. With Auckland’s population due to pass 1.5 million then 150,000 signatures would be required. Christchurch would require around 38,000 signatures.

If democracy is the underpinning rationale to leaving the inept in charge then let’s free us from this tyranny by providing a mechanism for exactly that. It si simple, it has a necessary threshold to prevent frivolous attempts and importantly gives voters an additional recourse that if their MP, Mayor, Council or Councillor goes haywire they can relieve themselves of their presence with a simple recall election.

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As much at home writing editorials as being the subject of them, Cam has won awards, including the Canon Media Award for his work on the Len Brown/Bevan Chuang story. When he’s not creating the news, he tends to be in it, with protagonists using the courts, media and social media to deliver financial as well as death threats.

They say that news is something that someone, somewhere, wants kept quiet. Cam Slater doesn’t do quiet and, as a result, he is a polarising, controversial but highly effective journalist who takes no prisoners.

He is fearless in his pursuit of a story.

Love him or loathe him, you can’t ignore him.

To read Cam’s previous articles click on his name in blue.

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