In Illinois, vote “no” on recall and defend democracy

It’s been nearly two years since then Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was impeached by the state Senate on accusations of corruption and abuse of power. None of the allegations had been proven in a court of law, although in the recently concluded trial Blagojevich was convicted on one charge, perjury to an FBI official.

Blagojevich will be the third Illinois governor to go to jail for corruption. ( End corruption – take corporate money out of politics )

But while the hullabaloo around removing Blagojevich has died down, one of the byproducts of the uproar is a measure on November’s ballot to amend the state constitution to allow for recall of a governor by voters.

Proponents say it’s an added check and balance. Sounds democratic, but is it really?

Aside from the cost of recall, which according to the Secretary of State would run at least $100 million, the bigger problem with the measure is the real danger in the ability of powerful interests to overturn the will of the majority and depose elected officials who come in conflict with corporate and right wing interests. They could embroil state politics in internal wrangling for years.

The proposed amendment to Section 7 of Article III sets up the following procedure: The first step would be an affidavit filed with the State Board of Elections announcing intent to seek a recall. That affidavit needs endorsements from 20 state representatives and 10 state senators – no more than half from the same political party in each group.

After the affidavit is in, there are 150 days to circulate the petition. The number of signatures must equal 15 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election – close to 520,000 signatures, based on the 2006 race – and must have names from at least 25 counties.

The recall special election would happen within 100 days of certification of the petition. If the governor is recalled, another special election would be held to elect a new governor.

The best example of what can go wrong is the experience in California. Remember when Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was reelected in 2002 with the broad support of labor, and the Mexican American and African American communities and women? A lot of progressive legislation was passed by the Democratic controlled California General Assembly during his tenure.

But with the state in the throws of an economic crisis, with Enron manufacturing an energy crisis after Republican Gov. Pete Wilson led the way with deregulation, Gray’s popularity flagged. Right wing and corporate interests used the crisis and resulting widespread anger to undo the progressive changes. (California recall has makings of coup )

The Republican right wing and corporate interests launched a massively funded recall campaign in 2003, hiring signature gatherers, including some from out of state. Backed by a corporate media chorus, they succeeded in what amounted to a coup and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger became governor in a special election.

Whatever one thinks about Blagojevich’s fate, he was impeached by the state legislature because a procedure for his removal is written into the state constitution.

Voters in fact already have a right of recall and they can exercise it during a regularly scheduled election every four years. That’s the proper place to settle these matters.

At another time, recall might not be a bad idea. But these are anything but normal times. The danger to democracy by subverting and bypassing the electoral system, despite its flaws, has increased because of the unrestrained and unaccounted for corporate money flooding the 2010 elections as a result of the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United vs. Federal Election Commission. ( Supreme Court goes for ‘One dollar, one vote’ )

A no vote on the proposed Illinois constitutional amendment will be a vote in defense of democracy in November of 2010.

Photo: Blagojevich waves goodbye




John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.