Total Recall: Kriseman Introduces Legislation to Recall State Officials

Rick-speaking-in-sessionRepresentative Rick Kriseman (D-53), my State Rep., has been on a roll here lately at The Spencerian: yesterday’s post on endorsing, and to date, the only subject in my Profile & Interview series I still want to get going (know anyone that would be good to profile?  Let me know.  I’m easy.).

Talk about a guy who gets it.

Today, Kriseman introduced legislation to recall state officials.

“Engaged citizens deserve the tools to hold their public servants accountable without having to wait for the next election,” Kriseman said in a statement. “Honest and dedicated elected officials will have nothing to fear from the implementation of this important proposal, and I am confident that my colleagues will support its passage.”

HJR 785 allows for a petition to recall a statewide official, requiring signatures be collected from each of the 67 counties, and the signatures equal 15 percent of the total votes cast in the last election for the office. A petition to recall a member of the Florida Legislature would require signatures from 20 percent of the total votes cast in the last election for the office.

The link is mine, because I’m helpful that way.

This is from Rep. Kriseman’s website:

Engaged citizens deserve the tools to hold their public servants accountable without having to wait for the next election. Honest and dedicated elected officials will have nothing to fear from the implementation of this important proposal, and I am confident that my colleagues will support its passage.

“Accountability”… imagine that.

According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 18 states permit the recall of state officials.  Let’s be sure there’s no confusion — here in Florida we can actually recall local officials, but there is nothing that allows for the recall of state officials.  First question: why the discrepancy?  Aren’t we holding local town council people, for example, to a higher standard than, say, the governor?

I’ve lived in Florida since 2006.  I’m trying to recollect if I’ve gone more than a week without hearing the phrase “there’s a culture of corruption in Tallahassee,” followed by a dismissive what-can-you-do shrug of the shoulders and a sad, resigned sigh.  I don’t think I have.  How about we actually employ that whole accountability thing, rather than just have it be another bit of campaign lip service.

If the idea of this scares you — if you’re worried you’ll see nothing but non-stop recall elections from here to eternity — chill out.  It’s not that bad.

First of all, there are some ground rules, and they are pretty tough.  You’d have to get signatures, and lots of them — 15% of the total votes cast in the previous election for that office holder’s race.  Let’s just take the race for governor again.  That’s 15% of about 5.5 million votes.  It’s in the 800,000-range for signatures, if I’ve done my math right (which is not a guarantee, people — get your calculators out).

And you’ll have to do better than going around your mom’s condo complex.  You’ve got to get signatures in all 67 counties in Florida.

If we’re talking about a legislator, it’s 20%, and you can only get signatures inside the legislative district.

And for anyone that might worry about disorderly transitions of power — or wasting taxpayer dollars on special elections, the way it would work would be to have the recall question at the top of the ballot, followed by a listing of “replacement” candidates.  Sort of a two-birds, one-stone type deal.

If the recall vote strikes out, you can’t start it all over again during their term in office.  It’s a one-shot situation.

What all of that adds up to is two things: the first is, if you’re going to launch a recall effort against an official, you’d better have a solid statewide network and a damn good plan in place.  Two, it means for as high a threshold as that is to meet, our elected officials ought to think pretty seriously about their actions in office (ie, that whole “accountability” thing).

I know we’re in tight budget times, and I know that campaigns and elections aren’t always popular here, but I think you can’t put a price on democracy, and you darn sure can’t put a price on accountability.

Keep up the great work, Rep. Kriseman.  And call your state legislator today and urge them to support this important legislation.  Hold them accountable for it.

cross posted at The Spencerian.

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About Benjamin Kirby

Benjamin J. Kirby has worked in Democratic politics, federal and local government, and issue advocacy for nearly twenty years. Currently he is the Communications Manager for a special taxing authority in Pinellas County, Florida which provides critical services to at-risk youth and underprivileged families. He has served in the non-profit sector, working for a healthcare education organization seeking to serve kidney patients and their families. He was also the Communications Director for the Parkinson’s Action Network (PAN), an education and advocacy group dedicated to finding better treatments and a cure for Parkinson’s disease. Before healthcare education and advocacy, he served in staff and volunteer capacities in political campaigns, most recently volunteering for the successful Keith Fitzgerald for State House (69th District, Florida) campaign in 2006, and his subsequent 2008 and 2010 campaigns. He advised Greg Galligan for State Senate (39th District, Virginia) in 2003 and conducted research for the successful Mark Sickles for Delegate (43rd District, Virginia) campaign, also in 2003. In 2002, he served as Field Director for Arkansas' first female gubernatorial nominee, Jimmie Lou Fisher, and as Campaign Manager for Jan Schneider’s first bid against Katherine Harris for the U.S. House of Representatives in Florida’s 13th Congressional District. His first campaign was with the Clinton/Gore Presidential Campaign of 1992 in his hometown of Little Rock, Arkansas. During the Clinton Administration, Benjamin served as the first Public Affairs Officer of the United States Parole Commission within the U.S. Department of Justice, where he developed the Commission’s first website. In 1998, he developed a website for the First Lady’s White House Millennium Council. He worked for more than five years serving two Drug Czars as an Administrative Assistant and Scheduler in the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. He also held a variety of research and administrative positions at the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Office of Presidential Personnel. Benjamin is seeking publication for his first novel, a love story set against the backdrop of the violent criminal underworld. In addition, he will soon be finishing several humorous essays reflecting on his service in the Clinton Administration. He is also the editor and publisher of The Spencerian, a political blog ( His fiction has been published in WordWrights! Magazine, and Apathy, a literary magazine. Born in western North Carolina and raised in Little Rock, Arkansas, Benjamin now lives in Gulfport, Florida with his wife and daughter. While working for the Clinton Administration, Benjamin went to school in the evening, and received an undergraduate degree in Political Communication from George Mason University.
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One thought on “Total Recall: Kriseman Introduces Legislation to Recall State Officials

  1. I sincerely hope that this legislation passes. Florida is desperately in need of authentic leadership. The people having elected Rick Scott… (how did that happen) need very strong leadership to replace him and restore the economy, jobs, and education. There’s so much that needs to be done. Rick Scott and the deep pockets that won this election for him, his corporate investors, placed their bets and believe they are about to pay off. In his short history as “governor” he has destroyed great potential of what could be. Let’s recall Rick Scott and create a stronger government in Florida.