The Recall: Tribunal of the People

The Recall: Tribunal of the People

The Recall: Tribunal of the People

The Recall: Tribunal of the People


Zimmerman examines in detail the use of the recall by United States voters to remove elected state and local officials from office. The arguments of recall proponents and opponents are analyzed, and model constitutional and statutory provisions are developed to guide governments considering adoption of the recall or revision of current recall provisions.


The recall allows voters by means of petitions to place on the ballot the question of removing an elected public officer prior to the expiration of the term of office, thereby recognizing the electorate as the fountainhead of sovereign power. This corrective device was unconventional when first adopted in 1903 as a democratic process modifying the representative principle and immediately generated intense public controversy about the nature of representative government. The strongest opposition came from elective officers, who charged that representative government would be undermined if the recall was adopted.

Surprisingly, relatively little has been published on the recall during the past seven decades. This book is the first one since 1912 devoted to a national examination and evaluation of the recall since its first employment in 1903 in Los Angeles to remove a member of the city council.

The recall reflects a long history of distrust of public officers dating to Jacksonian democracy with its emphasis upon electing all public officers for short terms and voter ratification of constitutional restraints on actions by state legislatures in the nineteenth century in reaction to scandals associated with canal and railroad building.

There can be no doubt that the plebiscite trinity -- the recall and its often associated protest referendum and initiative -- encourage voters to shadow government officers and play a more informed and important role in the governance process. Progressive leader Robert M. La Follette . . .

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