So, you want to recall your governor.
Perhaps that’s presumptive on my part. I mean, I have seen all those “Pritzker Sucks” signs – some in the same yards as the “Save the Nuclear Plants” placards, as if Gov. JB wasn’t pushing for legislation that would do just that – but with a recall attempt in California on the ballot earlier this week, there has been a smattering of Prairie State chatter about how to dispose of our chief executive legally without waiting for November 2022.
The good news? A process is already on the books here, as it is in 19 other states.
The bad news? It’s a steep uphill battle.
In 2010, Illinoisans approved a Gubernatorial Recall Amendment, which created a recall process that can only begin when at least 20 House and 10 Senate members, equally split among party lines, sign off on the citizen petition process.
In almost every conceivable circumstance, that alone takes a recall off the table. If there are 10 Representatives and five Senators from any governor’s own party willing to initiate a citizen petition, it seems likely the conditions would be more suitable for a traditional impeachment process.
(In 2008 the House voted unanimously to begin impeachment proceedings against Gov. Rod Blagojevich, the vote to impeach was 114-1 with three abstentions and the Senate voted 59-0 to remove him from office.)
But a recall effort is a numerically smaller bar to clear, so if such a situation arose the next step would be collecting signatures from at least 15% of the number of votes cast in the preceding gubernatorial election, and at least 100 signatures from 25 different counties. The latter clause seems almost impossibly easy (just count those yard signs). Based on 2018 turnout such a petition would need at least 1,136,915 valid signatures, not a simple feat, especially given the inevitability of legal challenges similar to those common with election nomination paperwork.
With all those hurdles cleared, actually recalling the governor requires a simple majority vote. A primary would run concurrent to the recall vote, and the successor election would take place soon after if needed.
I wrote in December about an effort from state Sen. Jason Barickman, R-Bloomington, and Rep. Mark Batinick, R-Plainfield, to amend the state constitution to give voters recall powers for school boards up through constitutional officers, as well as the House speaker, Senate president and auditor general.
Their plan improves on the process by removing the lawmaker initiation and reducing the signature requirement to 12%, but increasing the recall threshold to a 60% supermajority. The amendment got nowhere in the General Assembly, but remains an idea worth deeper consideration in the ongoing ethics reform process.