Monday, October 31, 2011

More on who gets to recall

Further to my post on whether to hold recalls in what are, for all practical purposes, defunct Senatorial districts, Mary Lazich (R - New Berlin) has introduced a bill making the new Senatorial districts effective immediately while keeping Assembly districts in place until November 2012.

This is the wrong way to address the concerns expressed in my post.

There is nothing wrong with allowing elected representatives to serve until their current terms expire. Nor do I think it is wrong to defer electing representatives in new districts in which there is now no incumbent legislator because the new lines have "paired" two or more incumbents in a single district. While it might seem important to hold a special election immediately to fill the resulting "vacancy," it won't work without also holding elections in, at least, all of the districts in which two incumbents now reside. Doing the former without the latter would result in a number of legislators exceeding the number reserved in the constitution. Because we don't want redistricting to result in an immediate cascade of elections, practical concerns justify waiting until the next regularly scheduled general election.

A different set of circumstances applies when one is dealing with an extraordinary election - a special election taking place because of the loss of an incumbent or recall taking place between the completion of redistricting. Since there is going to be an election anyway, the practical justification for deferring implementation of the new district is attenuated. The legislative solution would seem to be to specify that any recall or special election occurring after the district lines have been drawn should take place in the new district but that no district shall be deemed to be vacant because no incumbent currently resides within its boundaries.

This is not a one-sided solution. While some districts have become more Republican after redistricting, others have become more Democratic. My proposal would prohibit both parties from taking advantage of the transition period by going after incumbents who represent districts that are about to become more favorable to the opposition. It also avoids the unseemliness of legislators being recalled by people they no longer represent and without the participation of people that they now do represent.

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