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Politics / Issues

Why DeSantis Can't Face The Same Recall Threat That Newsom Did In California

In this Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021 file photo, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis answers questions related to school openings and the wearing of masks in Surfside.
In this Tuesday, Aug. 10, 2021 file photo, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis answers questions related to school openings and the wearing of masks in Surfside.

Governors in Florida can face impeachment, but only local officials can be recalled.

The nation’s eyes were on California this week as that state voted down an effort to recall Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

California is one of 20 states with a system in place to remove governors, according to University of Central Florida political science professor Aubrey Jewett. 

“The whole movement for recall really goes back to the Progressive era of American politics, which would have been the late 1800s and really into the 1900s,” Jewett said. “One of the things the progressives were very big on was direct democracy.” 

Progressive-era reforms included ballot measures and referenda, which allow citizens to circumvent the legislature and propose and pass laws by popular vote; the direct primary election, which allowed voters to have a say in candidates their party put forth; and the recall, which let voters remove elected officials who were corrupt, unpopular, or under-performing. 

“The thought was that we should allow voters to have a much more direct say in how the government operates,” Jewett said. 

Florida legislators tried for years to update the state Constitution, finally succeeding in 1968. That new Constitution included ballot initiative and ballot referendum, but not recall. Florida does allow for a recall of local officials, but it’s almost never used. 

Jewett said that depending on the rules of a given state’s recall, it does lead to the possibility of misuse. 

“If you have a party system where one party is just determined to make life miserable for the winner of the election, then presumably they might try to constantly go out and gather signatures, keep the pressure on, and have one recall after another.”

Jewett said, in Florida, we can impeach a governor if they do something illegal, but if we just don’t like them, we’ll just have to wait until the next election. 

Contact Sydney Boles at sboles@wjct.org, or on Twitter at @sydneyboles.

Copyright 2021 WJCT News 89.9. To see more, visit WJCT News 89.9.

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