Recall elections: A legal course requiring due process

Someone once said, “All politics is local.” And nothing hits so close to home as municipal level politics. The normal cycle of things has elections, initiatives and referendums occurring on a regular schedule in compliance with applicable laws.

On occasion, however, conditions arise that spark action in the opposite direction resulting in a recall election process. Once again, it is incumbent on those in positions of power to be sure any steps taken regarding recall action occur in accordance with the law. Transparency is an important factor.

It is worth noting that authority to conduct recall elections is not controlled by either the Texas Constitution or state law. Rather, it is the exclusive reserve of local governments that have a charter -so-called “home rule cities” – and then only if the charter contains a specific provision allowing recalls. Even then, most charters spell out how the process must advance. Avoiding missteps becomes crucial to maintaining integrity.

An example of the kind of legal challenge that can occur is evident in a matter in Plano. Efforts had been underway to remove one City Council member over allegedly inflammatory social media posts he made. Voters had submitted a petition with what was believed to be the appropriate number of signatures and the city secretary had certified it. Plans called for a recall election to be held this November.

However, last month, a State District judge ordered an end to the recall. He made the determination after finding that there were two nearly identical charters in existence. The only difference between them was in the language about the date of the election that should be used to assess signature validations. In the end, the judge said the secretary had used the wrong one, rejecting the petition and ordering the recall ended.

No appeal by the city is planned.