Vote them in, vote them out

Lindholm: Efforts to reinstitute recall elections moving forward

By Sarah Pridgeon

Spurred by requests from the local communities, Representative Tyler Lindholm has been working for well over a year on legislation that would reinstitute recall elections in Wyoming. Giving voters a way to remove an elected official is a tangled situation, he says, which will require unraveling current laws and modifying the state constitution.

This summer, Lindholm has gained support from the Corporations Committee, which plans to sponsor a bill that represents the first step in the process of reestablishing recall elections.

“This was something I was asked to look into and it turns out it’s going to take a lot of work. I’ve talked with a lot of our legislative service office attorneys and the general opinion is that it will require a constitutional amendment,” he says.

“Our constitution specifically states how you serve and when you serve and nothing in that allows for any wiggle room. There’s no ands, ors or buts in there as far as shortening up that term.”

Before the constitution can be amended, however, there is a housekeeping issue to address.

“We have this whole mess in statute where we’ve actually got a recall election that exists for a commission form of municipal government. The problem is, there is no such thing as a commission form of municipal government in the entire State of Wyoming,” Lindholm says.

“On top of that, that a recall statute exists doesn’t mean that it’s well written or even applicable whatsoever – the statute requires 25 percent of the electors to sign a petition.”

That’s a tall order, Lindholm says, when the average voter turnout is 35-45 percent during primary and general elections.

“If we do go forward with this, we need to have a one-size-fits-all for all levels of government, not this wildcard statute,” he says.

If re-elected, Lindholm plans to bring forth a bill next year that would address the existing statute. Even if he’s no longer representing House District #1, he says, the ball will remain in motion.

“The Corporations Committee has decided to sponsor my repeal of the recall election for commission forms of municipal government. That committee will be bringing that bill regardless of whether I’m there or not,” he explains.

The eventual goal, he says, is to install recall elections at every level of Wyoming government.

“I do support the idea that there is a recall election in place for all levels of government,” he says, adding that he believes there should be qualifiable proof or evidence that the elected person went against the will of the people before a recall election is triggered.

Lindholm also notes that a recall election does not necessarily mean the end of the road for an elected official. Instead, it provides an opportunity for the electorate as a whole to cast its votes as to whether that official has indeed gone against the will of the public.

“While you may get a recall election to take place, that doesn’t mean it’s going to be successful and, if it is successful, there’s nothing from stopping the individual sitting in that seat from running again – and winning again,” he says.

Lindholm did put forth legislation to appeal the statute during this year’s session but, due to the focus being on budget, there was not enough time to consider it on the floor. Even if the process goes like clockwork when the issue is brought forward again in 2017, he warns, it will still take a while to complete.

“Things like this do require multiple pieces of legislation and action. It’s been a good process so far, I’ve had a lot of support and input on it,” he says.

“This type of legislation takes years to advance. It’s not something that’s going to happen overnight.”

If the bill to repeal recall elections for commission forms of government passes, the next step will be a constitutional amendment allowing for a recall election. This would require a vote of two thirds of the House of Representatives and two thirds of the Senate, after which it would be placed on the ballot for the voters to consider.

“At the very soonest, you’re looking at that being approved in 2018,” he says.
“At that point, we can run a piece of legislation outlining how a recall election can and will take place. The very soonest would be July 1, 2019.”