Executive recall is a remedy whereby the electorate, upon realizing they have elected the wrong person, can remove the incumbent part way through his term. Experience shows this remedy is used sparingly; in the eighteen U.S. states whose constitutions provide for the recall of governors, only two governors have ever been recalled.

The basis for the remedy

Public office is not an asset belonging to the office-holder. Elected officials do not obtain office as a reward for services rendered, nor do they take office pursuant to an enforceable contract. They are merely agents who serve at the people’s pleasure. If the people decide they do not want to be represented by someone and wish to immediately dispense with his services, that is their sovereign and inalienable right.

Badly flawed version of the remedy

In some American states, judicially determined grounds of misconduct are required prior to a recall process being initiated. This is a flawed approach because recall is not designed to punish an incumbent; rather it is a mechanism to change representatives when the people no longer wish to be represented by the incumbent.

This article is an extract from the book ‘Principles of Good Government’ by Matthew Bransgrove