EDITORIALS

Recall No Answer

Posted May 15, 2011, at 7:14 p.m.

Mainers who disapprove of Gov. Paul LePage may think the somewhat unexpected election victory by Cynthia Dill, a Democrat, will speed the move toward his recall. This is faulty thinking. A recall would only lead to an endless cycle of political retribution that benefits no one.

Rep. Cynthia Dill won overwhelmingly in a special election Tuesday to fill a vacant Senate seat in a strongly Republican district covering South Portland, Cape Elizabeth and eastern Scarborough. She defeated her Republican opponent, Louis B. Maietta Jr. of South Portland, with 68 percent of the vote. She attributed the outcome partly to backlash against the LePage administration. This may or may not be true.

Rep. Dill has sponsored legislation to create a mechanism to recall the governor, legislators and constitutional officers. No such process exists now.

Nineteen other states and the District of Columbia do permit recall of elected officials. They require petitions signed by various numbers ranging from 10 percent to 50 percent of the voters.

Recall procedures began in the United States in the city of Los Angeles in 1903. Michigan and Oregon, in 1908, were the first states to adopt recall procedures. Minnesota, in 1996, was the most recent.

The only successful recall of a governor was in North Dakota in 1921, when voters removed from office not only Gov. Lynn J. Frazier but also the attorney general and the commissioner of agriculture.

Rep. Dill’s recall efforts have included an online petition drive; it has picked up more than 10,000 signatures.

In the Legislature, her motion for a legislative joint order to report out a bill establishing a recall process was rejected after a mostly party-line House vote of 83-66 to kill it.

This is where the recall process should end for now.

Gov. LePage, like many of his recent predecessors, was elected with less than a majority of the votes. This naturally means that many people will oppose him and his policies. That doesn’t mean that unpopular governors should be subject to recall, however.

If there ever is to be discussion of adding a recall provision to Maine law, it shouldn’t be at a time of high partisan rancor. Putting such a provision in place now would nearly guarantee it would be used against the next governor simply to make a point.

This isn’t how Maine should make decisions.

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