MADISON — A group of
municipal officials pressed Wisconsin lawmakers Tuesday to make it harder
to initiate recall elections at the local level, saying it's currently too
easy and that such campaigns often divide communities.
Town of Garfield board
chairman Steve Dickinsen told the Assembly Committee on Campaigns and
Elections that a recall is usually the best way for people to call out
officials they don't agree with on issues, but it can be
"divisive" if done too frequently.
Dickinsen said the
Osseo-Fairchild school district has had two recalls on school board
officials since 2002 over its use of American Indian mascot logos. He said
the recalls hurt the morale of schools and the community, fueling fierce
disputes between people who called the logos culturally offensive and
demeaning to American Indians and those who strongly disagreed.
Dickinsen joined others
in speaking in favor of a bill that would make it harder to recall an
elected municipal official.
Recall occurs most
frequently at the local level, according to the National Conference of
State Legislatures. The NCSL said estimates show three-fourths of recall
elections are at the city council or school board level.
Currently, at least 29
states allow local recalls.
Under the proposal
introduced by Republican Rep. Alvin Ott, of Forest Junction, qualified
voters would have to show that official has been charged with committing a
crime or committing an ethics violation when circulating a recall
Current law allows them
to do so as long as their reason for the recall is related to the person's
official responsibilities. For example, a loss in morale in city hall
could be cited as the reason for a recall attempt, Ott said.
He said recalls often
target local officials who are simply doing their jobs, which inevitably
involve making tough and unpopular decisions.
"Constant chaos is
unhealthy for the government," he said. "Simple disagreement on
an issue should not be the basis for the recall of a local elected
In a letter sent to the
committee, John Ashley, executive director of the Wisconsin Association of
School Boards, said the board has long been supporting narrowing the use
of a recall petition to illegal or immoral activities.
controversial stands on issues of the day, or promoting public policy
opposed by a vocal minority should not subject an elected official to a
recall," Ashley said. "If some voters want change, the next
regular scheduled election is when that action should take place."
But Robert Kraig,
director of the Milwaukee-based advocacy group Citizen Action, opposed the
measure, saying it will reduce elected officials' accountability to the
"I think it goes too
far," Kraig said in an email. "Recalls historically have been
very rare, so concern that there is some avalanche of frivolous recalls is
Chris Ahmuty, executive
director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, called
limiting recalls to crimes and ethics violations unnecessary, noting
officials would usually resign or be forced from office under such
circumstances therefore don't need a recall.