COLUMBIA, S.C. –A bill introduced Thursday in the South Carolina House would allow voters to recall elected officials for their conduct in office.
To recall someone, a petition would have to be signed by at least 25 percent of the number of people who voted in the general election in the last governor’s race in the district or area of the official that voters are trying to recall. The reason for the recall must be stated clearly on the petition.
Rep. Bill Sandifer, R-Seneca, is the main sponsor of the bill.
“I’ve heard from a lot of constituents and folks around the state that complain about the fact that, once an official gets elected, they often times kind of lose their way and do not carry out what the electorate wanted them to do,” he says.
He says former Gov. Mark Sanford’s leaving the state and then admitting an affair influenced his decision to file the bill but is not the main reason for it.
After the recall is filed, there would be a special election for all voters to decide whether to keep that elected official in office.
Columbia voter Jane Lambeth says, “I just think it would be a waste of time. I mean, we vote on them every so often and people make their choices at the time. If they do something illegal, then they should be removed.”
But voter Becky Ratz says she thinks it’s a great idea and would make elected officials more accountable. “If they’re not doing what they’re supposed to do, what we elected them to do, I think that gives us a little bit of power to say, ‘You know, we put you in. We can take you out,'” she says.
There are similar bills in the South Carolina Senate. The Senate bills require petition signatures from at least 15 percent of registered voters.
John Crangle, state director of the watchdog group Common Cause, says recall isn’t always a good way to hold elected officials accountable. Special interest groups can pour money into gathering signatures and then buy advertising to defeat an official who doesn’t agree with them, he says.
“Recall can become a harassment device by special interest groups and officials who are doing a good job can be harassed with recall and they can be removed,” he says. “There’ve been a number of cases in which the public misunderstood the situation and recalled somebody, blamed him for things that he didn’t do.”
According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 19 states have recall for state officials. Rep. Sandifer’s bill would apply to state officials like governor and lieutenant governor, state House and Senate members, and local elected officials like county council and local school board members.