Can Pennsylvania Recall Gov. Tom Corbett?
In light of Gov. Corbett’s budget address yesterday, in which he most prominently stripped more money away from higher education—30 percent cut for Temple University and a 28 percent reduction for Penn State, among others—a Facebook page titled, “Recall Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett,” began getting hit on and “talked about” throughout the social networking community. A quick search for “Recall Tom Corbett” brings up five Facebook groups. A Google search brings up a hell of a lot more, including a Change.org petition. The point of such online materials is to hold a recall election, using a democratic vote to pull Gov. Corbett from office before he’s able to smash any more of our hopes and dreams.
But is that something we, as Pennsylvanians, can actually do? No. Sorry.
Recall elections are a process in which supporters gather enough signatures to put a current politician back on the ballot for a future election day, and voters can vote to strip him from office. Currently, only Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Kansas, Arizona, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, Rhode Island, Washington, Oregon, North Dakota and New Jersey allow recall elections. And there have only been two successful recall elections of governors in the history of the United States—one of which eventually gave the world “The Governator.” Three-quarters of U.S. recall elections are held at the City Council and school board levels. Unlike impeachment, recall is not a legal process—it is literally a matter of public opinion.
Pennsylvania only allows recall elections at the local levels, right now (although this is debatable). Want to change that? Get it done at the state level? You need a legislative initiative in the state government. Good luck.
In some states, petitioners seeking the recall have to identify some sort of misconduct on behalf of the elected official while in office in order to even begin the process. In others, you need nothing. The number of signatures required varies from state-to-state but is often based upon the number of voters in the last election.
Last year saw an unprecedented number of recall elections, when a
large portion two of eight Republican Wisconsin legislative spots up for recall were yanked in light of that state’s radical anti-union agenda pushed by Gov. Scott Walker, who is also up for a recall.