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Politics: Recalls are busting out all over

March 15, 2011 |  6:02 pm

Carlos Alvarez An angry electorate is not a patient electorate. Hence the profusion of recall elections at the local and state level across the country, including one Tuesday on whether to recall Miami Mayor Carlos Alvarez and Commissioner Natacha Seijas. The two drew the ire of billionaire car dealer (and former owner of the Philadelphia Eagles) Norman Braman, who helped fund the recall effort, because they supported a 14% increase in the county's property tax rate and a pay raise for county employees.

It's fairly easy to follow a single recall effort, particularly when it's happening in your community, but keeping track of them all? That's a job for someone like Joshua Spivak, a scholar of U.S. recalls who's a senior fellow at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in New York. Now Spivak has loosed his expertise on the blogosphere, launching The Recall Elections Blog.

Here's how Spivak described his efforts in an e-mail. Note how he debunks the "angry electorate" meme I relied on at the top of this very post (my bad!):

Wisconsin, Miami and other jurisdictions have led some to cite a wave of unprecedented voter anger as being the cause of the revitalization of the recall. This is a strange assertion as it ignores more important developments, primarily technological changes, which suggest that the recall is now coming into its own and, barring changes in the law, will continue to grow in use nationwide.

The recall is also interesting from a theoretical perspective as it puts a heavy thumb on the scale of one of the fundamental "irresistible force v. immovable object" questions of representative democracy, namely, whether an elected official should act as a trustee and vote his own opinion, or perform as a delegate and vote according to the wishes of his constituency.

I intend to use the blog to critically examine the latest updates on recalls happening across the nation, the history of the device, provide a detailed examination for state legislative recalls that have taken place up till now, and look at some of the big historical figures involved with the recall.

The near-existential question he raised about the proper role of elected representatives is, to me, the most interesting one raised by the recall phenomenon. Anyway, if you're interested in what's happening in Miami, Wisconsin or anywhere else the ground is crumbling under officeholders, check out Spivak's blog. It's young yet -- he started it last week -- but it's a wonderful topic.

-- Jon Healey

 Photo: Miami Mayor (for now) Carlos Alvarez. Credit: Associated Press

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