Bill Will Raise Signature Threshold for Recall, Reform System to Prevent Abuse
RICHMOND, VA – Today, the Virginia Senate passed Sen. Jennifer McClellan’s (D-Richmond) recall election reform bill (SB 495) to set clearer thresholds for recall and removal of elected officials and prevent political manipulation of the recall process.
In recent years, Virginia’s broad and undefined recall laws have been exploited as a political tool to undercut elected officials.
McClellan’s bill makes the following reforms:
Requires that a petition for a recall referendum be signed by 30 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last election for the office. Currently, the required amount of petition signatures is 10 percent.
Requires that a recall election be held among the voters between 90 and 150 days following the certification of recall signatures. Under current law, Virginia is one of a handful of states in which recalls are decided in a court hearing, rather than by the voters.
Sets clear criteria for removal of an elected official: conviction of a felony offense, certain misdemeanor crimes, or a crime against the locality. Current law has vague criteria that have been vulnerable to misuse.
Sets a time limitation for recall petition gathering: 30 days for petitions requiring 5,000 signatures or fewer; 45 days for petitions requiring more than 5,000 signatures. Currently, there are no limitations on the length of time for collecting petition signatures, enabling the misuse of the recall process for distraction, delay or political purposes.
Creates a process for verifying petition signatures, based on uniform standards approved by the State Board of Elections. There is currently no process for verifying petition signatures.
“Too often, we’ve seen Virginia’s loose recall laws become manipulated for purely political reasons,” McClellan said. “This bill will set a clear standard for recall elections consistent with other states, creating a more objective and fair process that is less susceptible to abuse. I look forward to working with my House colleagues to pass this important reform to protect our election process.”
Del. Marcus Simon (D-Falls Church) introduced a companion bill, HB 972.
“This bill brings much needed reforms to the recall/removal process for government officials, and we are pleased to see bipartisan grassroots support from across the Commonwealth,” said Luisa Boyarski, Leader of the Virginia Grassroots Coalition. “The current process for removing officials is confusing and it shuts the public out of the decision-making process, leaving it to a courtroom decision, not a ballot referendum. The reforms outlined in SB 495 will bring more transparency and put Virginia in line with other states, opening up the process and standardizing protocols for localities. We strongly encourage the House to pass this bill and Governor Youngkin to sign this bill so we can take Virginia to the next level of accountability.”