recall mechanism for all elected politicians

Empowering constituents to initiate a "total" recall mechanism for all elected politicians


Daniel Gaunt Apr 5, 2015

Phase 2 suggested final wording:

i) Except for the President, any elected officer, including a person who has been appointed in lieu of an election or to fill a vacancy, can be recalled. The government shall implement laws to determine the procedure for recalling an elected officer, providing that it shall accord to the following principles.

ii) A petition signed by 20% of eligible electors within a ninety-day period shall be required to trigger a recall ballot.

iii) The recall ballot shall be conducted in the manner of a referendum with a single question:

Should <name of elected officer>, <elected position> be recalled?.

The ballot may be held at the same time as any other referendum or election.

iv) If the recall ballot results in more than half of votes cast being cast for Yes, the subject of the ballot shall be recalled and a new election shall take place in accordance with the rules for filling vacancies for the particular position.

v) If the recall ballot results in fewer than half the ballot being cast for Yes, the subject of the ballot shall be exempt from further recall petitions for the remainder of the individual's term of office.

vi) The legislation required under i) above shall include procedures for notifying the subject of a recall petition of the intent to seek recall, and for setting limits on expenditure by proponents and opponents of the recall.


I agree. How do we think it would/should work? 

As a starter for 10:

  • Recall by petition, six-week deadline to collect signatories. 
  • Petition must specify the reason for recall. Justification must be specific and limited to personal wrongdoing, maladministration or significant misadministration. 
  • 10% of registered electors to sign to trigger a recall ballot. 
  • Recall ballot is a yes/no proposition. Stringent limits on spending for recall ballot. 
  • If yes, a new representative to be elected. Previous representative barred from standing. 
  • If no, or if insufficient signatures are gathered, representative to be exempt from future recall ballots on the same issue in the current parliament. 

Malcolm Ramsay Apr 17, 2015

I'd say the second bullet point above is incompatible with the original proposal, which is for 'total' recall, and it doesn't adequately allow for a situation in which there's a widespread feeling of not being properly represented.

A possibility is two different thresholds: 10%, as proposed above, for recall justified by personal wrongdoing, maladministration or significant misadministration; or 20%, as suggested by Nicholas Charalambides below, for recall without specific justification.

John Z Apr 6, 2015

A definite must.

Mark Cooke Apr 12, 2015

The problem with this idea comes over in the suggestion above:

Either you allow recall for any reason electors think fit (in which case, as US experience show, it is used overwhelmingly to rerun elections on a political basis when opponents think they can beat the incumbent) (And which I think is actually undemocratic,  elected people should have their term judged as a whole, and most MPs will not have majority support when elected under the electoral systems being favoured in this discussion.

Or you have limited grounds,  which amount to misconduct, which are very difficult to define or address fairly in a non-judicial context.   Who decides what 'maladministration' is - I disagree with most things my local MP has supported over the last parliament,  but those are political disagreements to be resolved through elections. It is likely most of these recalls would end up in litigation.

If we have frequent elections, with a fair electoral system,   I think the added value of this process would be very small.


Malcolm Ramsay Apr 12, 2015

"as US experience show, it is used overwhelmingly to rerun elections on a political basis when opponents think they can beat the incumbent"

Can you tell us what you're basing this on, Mark? And why you think that pattern would be reproduced in Britain? It's hard to reconcile with the analysis I've read on the Unlock Democracy website – – which says, among other things: 

  • In the US and British Columbia, recall is situated in political institutions which give voters a participatory role in policy and the selection of candidates for election, such as ballot initiatives, referendums, and primary elections. As a result, recalls are comparatively rare: in the US, there have been 22 successful and 18 unsuccessful recall elections; in British Columbia, there has never been a successful recall petition, although one politician who was the target of a recall resigned when it became clear that the recall would likely be successful.
  • The evidence shows that recall elections are uncommon even in jurisdictions with low signature thresholds. California, for example, has one of the lowest thresholds for recall worldwide, requiring proponents to gather signatures equalling 12% of the total number of voters who voted in the last election. Yet recall attempts are still relatively rare in California: in the 103 years since the state introduced recall, there have been 156 recall petitions filed against state-level officials and nine recall elections.
  • The “sore loser” pattern of recall tends to occur in already highly polarised political systems, such as the US or Venezuela. Recall campaigns elsewhere, even when initiated on policy issues rather than misconduct, have generally dealt with instances where a politician has reneged on election promises.

Ultimately, any system which gives power to the people is bound to rely on the people behaving responsibly. But, as long as the costs of the process are borne by the people of the constituency in question, I can't see any reason to confine the electorate's power to one day every four or five years.


Nicholas Charalambides Apr 13, 2015

Thank you all for your inputs so far! To those of you I've tagged, as with elsewhere, it would be great to get some more suggestions on the matter at hand!

Degauntier - I think you've pretty much hit the nail on the head with your starting points. The only think I would question is the six week deadline to collect signatures. Malcolm has mentioned Unlock Democracy above and they propose a 90 day period in which to collect signatures, but as a consequence, raise the required amount of the electorate to 20%.

I think these numbers may have the benefit of not seeing a petition to pass by too quickly, with six weeks being quite a short space of time. It could also allow citizens to deliberate more on whether to sign the petition or not. What would you say to these numbers?

Malcolm Ramsay Apr 15, 2015

Ian Smith has raised the possibility of an appointments commission to select a Head of State – – as an alternative to elections. I've suggested that (at least) the recall process would have to be broadened to embrace that position (though I've also suggested an appointment/election compromise). Comments on Ian's idea would be welcome.

Fiona Condon Apr 18, 2015

Does this overlap with Power of Recall - the ability to sack 'wayward' MPs?