Illinois voters may soon get the power to remove a sitting governor from office, thanks in part to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
CHICAGO (AP) — Illinois voters may soon get the power to remove a sitting governor from office, thanks in part to ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Advocates of voter recall had been trying for years to amend the Illinois Constitution so that people could get rid of unpopular officials. Their efforts went nowhere until Blagojevich was arrested and then impeached by lawmakers. Suddenly, legislators were eager to put a recall amendment on the ballot, so long as it didn’t affect them. "Rod Blagojevich was the poster boy for recall," said Democratic Rep. Jack Franks, the measure’s lead House sponsor. "If ever a state needed an ability to recall, it’s Illinois." Come Nov. 2, voters get to decide whether the state’s constitution should be amended to include a recall option for the governor but no other officials. The amendment would create a complicated process. Angry citizens couldn’t take any action until a governor has been in office for six months. Then, to launch the recall process, they would have to get support from 30 legislators — at least 20 from the House, 10 from the Senate and no more than half from the same party. Next, they’d have to circulate a petition to place recall on the ballot. To qualify, they’d need signatures equal to 15 percent of the votes cast in the last election for governor. That’s about 523,000 signatures, based on results of the 2006 election. To ensure some statewide support for recalling a governor, activists would need at least 100 signatures from a minimum of 25 counties. If recall backers succeed in collecting enough signatures, then a special election would be held. A simple majority would be enough to oust the governor. The lieutenant governor would take over until another election could be held to choose a permanent replacement. Cindi Canary, executive director for the Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, said the process is cumbersome for a reason. "There was an attempt made to balance the rush of ‘throw the bums out’ with a thoughtful process for when you had a real problem," Canary said. Eighteen other states have a recall option, though it’s only been exercised twice in U.S. history — in California in 2003 and in North Dakota in 1921. John Tillman, CEO of the conservative Illinois Policy Institute, said the recall amounts to "fake reform" because it allows a governor who’s in trouble to make deals with lawmakers to save his job. "This reform is like asking Al Capone’s gang whether or not he should go to jail," Tillman said. Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.