State Sen. Curt Friesen of Henderson has taken on a formidable foe: recall elections.
Friesen has introduced LB415 in the Legislature to abolish recall elections in Nebraska.
The senator’s reasoning is simple. Nebraskans have gotten carried away with recalls to where the state ranks sixth nationally for the most recalls over the past decade. That is when the number is adjusted for population.
What’s most troubling is when an elected official gets recalled over a difference in opinion on an issue. Friesen points to the example of Gregg Kremer, the Hamilton County commissioner who lost a recall election earlier this month. The petition drive against Kremer was started because some residents didn’t like his position on the county’s ambulance service.
A major concern, Friesen said, is that good people won’t run for public office because they could face a recall if they take an unpopular position. Or board members will refuse to compromise on an issue if they can just recall someone.
While, generally, recall elections are good because they give residents more of a voice in their government, Friesen is right that it is wrong to recall someone just over a policy dispute. That is what elections are for.
If you don’t like someone’s positions, don’t vote for them. If you don’t like an official’s public record, run against them.
Recalls are a too drastic of a measure to take just because of a disagreement on a vote or a position.
That said, recalls are completely appropriate if there is unethical, illegal or improper behavior by an official. If that is going on, an official should be recalled.
Friesen said that he is willing to amend his bill to allow for recalls in those instances. In some states, recalls are only allowed because of neglect, incompetence or unethical behavior. Sixteen states, including Nebraska, don’t require any specific grounds for a recall.
But in Nebraska, state senators and state constitutional officers can’t be recalled. Recalls only apply to local political subdivisions such as city council members, mayors, county boards, school boards and natural resources districts.
The facts are unmistakable that there has been an inordinate rate of recalls in Nebraska. Too often, they are used as a reprisal against an official who takes a position with which those starting the petition disagree.
Tightening up the requirements for recall elections would be wise. There is a place for recalls, but not just because you don’t like the person. It has to be a serious situation where the official has acted inappropriately.
Otherwise, elected officials face too perilous of a situation if they could be recalled because of any vote or position that they take.