The right to recall

At yesterday’s Senate Rules Committee hearing, one of the main arguments against suspending the Predator Senator, Norm McAllister, was that suspension would unfairly deprive his constituents of full representation.

Which is a good argument if you ignore, oh, y’know, morality and stuff. It’s an argument that may very well result in a court ruling in McAllister’s favor. A constituent who doesn’t mind being represented by a self-admitted sexual predator can say, “Look, by population Franklin County deserves two Senators, and until McAllister’s suspension is lifted we only have one.”

There are, on the other hand, the interests of constituents who don’t want to be represented by a felon-in-waiting. They have no recourse whatsoever until the next election, because Vermont is one of 14 states with no provision for recalling elected officials.

No matter what those officials might do.

Let’s say, purely hypothetically, choosing a name out of thin air, Dick Mazza runs into the Senate chamber wielding a pickaxe and starts hackin’ and slashin’. After he’s been subdued and taken away in handcuffs and the blood is washed off the walls, furnishings, and light fixtures, the Senate meets to consider what to do.

And decides it can’t do anything until the criminal case is resolved. Congratulations, good people of the Grand Isle district! Like it or not, you shall be represented by an *alleged* axe murderer until the next election! Provisions shall be made for Senator Mazza to participate in committee meetings, floor debates and Senate votes by video feed from his jail cell.

Yes, outlandish, I know. But what are the alternatives under the present system?

Well, I bet Our Distinguished Solons would find a pretext for removing Mazza from his position. Just like they could for McAllister if they were so inclined.

But enough speculation for one post. My point is, if we are truly concerned about full and equal representation for constituents, even if their elected official is accused of heinous crimes, then we need to give voters the power to do something about the situation.

Yes, the voters of Franklin County deserve equal representation. But they also deserve representation that doesn’t bring disgrace upon them. And all constituents deserve to be represented by people they can trust, not people accused of multiple felonies.

The Vermont Legislature has the sole authority to amend the state Constitution, and it’s a really long, arduous, and cumbersome process. Clearly dating from the bad old days when Our Founding Fathers didn’t view democracy the same way we do today. (Just ask any woman alive at the time.)

So let’s try to make something positive out of the McAllister scandal. Let’s amend the Constitution to create a recall process, and give the voters the power to decide whether the Norm McAllisters of the world deserve to continue in office. Our Senators have been so solicitous of the people’s right to full representation; surely they’d all be in favor of creating a recall mechanism.


6 thoughts on “The right to recall

  1. Kelly Cummings

    Well I completely agree with you.

    It’s horrible enough that McAllister has done what he’s done. He’s admitted to some of the charges publicly so there’s no question to his guilt there. But it would be “extra extra” horrible for the Senate to brush off this opportunity to pass legislation that would allow a recall in situations such as this.

    I can’t think of one excuse that would be “reelection” worthy, from any member, to not move on recall legislation as soon as they’re back in session!

    The Senate, like it or not, needs to own this problem. And then fix it!

  2. Bud Haas

    Wrong. The people of Franklin County got what they deserved. Now maybe someone (of any party) with some small measure of scruples will run for office there.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      Well, I think they deserve another shot since McAllister’s arrest and indictment happened in mid-term. They might just elect another scoundrel, or even re-elect McAllister, but they should get the chance.

  3. Kelly Cummings

    Allow me to amend my earlier words.

    I suppose I should have correctly said “amend the Constitution” vs. “pass recall legislation”.


  4. Paula Schramm

    Thank you so much, VPO, for this post ! As a Franklin County constituent, I’ve been sounding off since last spring about the right, noble and responsible thing to do for Norm McAllister is to resign, so that his constituents have a chance to be represented as they are legally due.( At the very least, by someone who is not distracted by having to fight a felony court case happening concurrently to the legislative session.) Now that he’s made it crystal clear that he refuses, I’ve been working on my letter to the editor this morning….. and here I see : you said it all, perfectly and with your usual razor-sharp wit.
    I hope all Senators take it to heart and that all citizens, especially in Franklin County rise up in support of getting a right of recall into our Constitution.

    1. John S. Walters Post author

      The sad thing is, I haven’t heard anyone else talking about recall. It’s the sensible, obvious solution. Of course, we’re asking our elected representatives to enact a system to get rid of them, so what did I expect?


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