Saturday, March 27, 2010
It May Be Possible To Recall Senator Mark Begich; New Jersey Appeals Court Rules Recall Effort Against Senator Robert Menendez Can Proceed
Conventional wisdom previously held that U.S. Representatives and Senators could not be subject to a recall; In response to growing Alaskan sentiment to recall our Democratic Senator Mark Begich, I had earlier posted information to this effect. There's even a RecallBegich website.
Now that conventional wisdom may end up dropping by the wayside. New Jersey Tea Parties United and the Sussex County Tea Party launched a recall effort against their Democratic U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, and, according to the Star-Ledger, on March 16th, 2010, a New Jersey state appeals court ruled New Jersey’s secretary of state must accept a petition a citizens group filed to recall U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez, but left open the question as to whether the removal effort itself is constitutional. The court found existing New Jersey law and the state’s constitution both allow U.S. senators to be recalled. For that reason, the appeals court said, the removal effort can proceed. But noting the absence of case law and precedent, it left the ultimate question of the constitutionality of the state’s recall law and amendment to a higher court.
"There are a host of genuine arguments and counterarguments that can be articulated and debated about whether or not the Federal Constitution would permit a United States Senator to be recalled by the voters under state law," the appellate judges said. Article 1 Section 2b of the New Jersey Constitution states, "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. The Legislature shall enact laws to provide for such recall elections". Note that members of Congress are specfically included.
Thus the door is now open for the possibility of the recall of Senator Mark Begich, depending upon how the effort in New Jersey progresses. The Alaska State Constitution neither explicitly permits nor prohibits it. Article XI, Section 8 of the Alaska State Constitution, entitled "Initiative, Referendum, and Recall", states, "All elected public officials in the State, except judicial officers, are subject to recall by the voters of the State or political subdivision from which elected. Procedures and grounds for recall shall be prescribed by the legislature". However, AS 15.45.470 states, "The governor, the lieutenant governor, and members of the state legislature are subject to recall by the voters of the state or the political subdivision from which elected". U.S. Senators and Representatives are omitted from the list, but no language specifically prohibits the recall of elected Federal officials. This same information is also posted on the Alaska Division of Elections website.
Thus, if New Jersey successfully secures a recall election for Menendez, we could use New Jersey's actions as a precedence and, combined with the lack of a specific prohibition in the Alaska State Constitution, possibly launch our own effort to recall Senator Begich. Of course, we would have to prove that his actions inflicted specific damage upon the state; we can't just recall him because we don't like him. In fact, AS 15.45.510 states that the specific grounds for recall are lack of fitness, incompetence, neglect of duties, or corruption.
New Jersey Tea Parties United and the Sussex County Tea Party launched their recall effort against Menendez in the fall of 2009 because he persistently votes for too much government spending. But then-Secretary of State Nina Mitchell Wells rejected the committee’s recall notice, the filing of which is necessary before petitions can be circulated, claiming that the U.S. Constitution supersedes the state’s constitution. With the appeal court's ruling, the committee can now begin the process of securing the signatures of 25 percent of registered voters of the affected district before a recall election can be held. Since there were 5.2 million registered voters in November 2009, the committee would have to secure 1.3 million signatures. Menendez' six-year term doesn't expire until 2012.