Right of Recall

The right of the people to recall elected officials is a time-honored tradition that predates the United States itself. The Massachusetts Charter of 1691 included a right of recall, as did several state constitutions following the American Revolution. Even the U.S. Constitution originally included the right to recall U.S. senators, in the pre-Seventeenth Amendment days before 1912, when senators were appointed by state legislatures rather than elected by popular vote.

More recently, the right of popular recall was added to many state constitutions around the turn of the 20th century. In 1995, a recall provision was added to the New Jersey constitution: “The people reserve unto themselves the power to recall, after at least one year of service, any elected official in this State or representing this State in the United States Congress.”
Recalling elected officials is not a qualification of office, it is an element of the electoral process, which the Constitution clearly leaves in the hands of the states. Our Constitution contains several provisions to protect our right to representative government, by and of the people:

  • Article V provides a mechanism for amending the Constitution;
  • The First Amendment states that Congress shall make no law respecting the right of the people to petition the Government for a redress of grievances;
  • The 10th Amendment states that powers not delegated to the federal government or prohibited by it to the states are reserved to the states or to the people; and
  • The 17th Amendment holds that the electors (voters) in each state shall have the qualifications requisite for electors of the most numerous branch of the state legislature.

Eleven states—Arizona, Colorado, Louisiana, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin—also have broadly written state constitutional or statutory provisions allowing for the recall of “any”, “all” or “every” elected official.

Support the ACRU’s work on the Right of Recall by donating today.

Right of Recall: ACRU Court Activity

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Right of Recall: ACRU Commentary

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