State

Voters to decide on recall

Voters who saw the previous governor get impeached and his predecessor convicted may get the power to recall future ones.

A constitutional amendment to allow for gubernatorial recall will be put on the November 2010 ballot after the Senate approved it Thursday. If approved by voters, it will set up a convoluted system by which the public could oust the governor from office.

The amendment, drafted by state Rep. Jack Franks, D-Marengo, is a watered-down version of his original desire to empower voters to recall General Assembly members and holders of statewide office. But Franks said he would take what he could get after the antics of former Govs. George Ryan and Rod Blagojevich.

“I’m glad we have something,” Franks said.

“We have our foot in the door, but I’d rather have seen the original bill we passed two years ago going to the voters,” Franks said.

Amending the state constitution requires either a three-fifths majority of people voting on the question, or a simple majority of all voters in the election.

Under the amendment, the recall process would begin if 15 percent of the voters who cast ballots in the previous gubernatorial election signed a petition, with at least 100 signatures each coming from at least 25 counties. The people would have 150 days to collect the signatures after filing their intent with the Illinois State Board of Elections.

The petition then would have to be backed by 20 members of the House and 10 members of the Senate, with no more than half coming from any one party. Voters then would decide the governor’s fate in a special election.

If the governor is recalled, the next person in the line of succession would become acting governor until voters in a subsequent special election choose someone to finish out the term.

“The very best way to make sure the governor does the right thing all the time is to have in our constitution the power of recall,” said Gov. Pat Quinn, who took office in January after legislators removed Blagojevich from office. “I think we will see this is the ultimate ethics measure.”

Blagojevich was indicted in April on 16 federal corruption counts and is expected to go to trial next June. Ryan, his predecessor, is serving a 6 1/2-year prison term for racketeering and fraud.

Three previous Illinois governors have been indicted and two convicted, although one of them was convicted for crimes committed after he left office.

Franks’ original recall amendment passed the House but died in the Senate in May 2008 after its Executive Committee altered it to allow for recall of any salaried elected official in Illinois. He said he tried to stop Thursday’s vote in the Senate to see whether the votes were there after Blagojevich’s ouster to give his original amendment another chance.

At least 18 states and the District of Columbia allow for recall of state elected officials to varying degrees. Although eight states have removed governors by impeachment, only two states have ever recalled them by popular vote: North Dakota in 1921 and California in 2003.

OUTBOX

On the Web

The proposed amendment can be found at the General Assembly’s Web site at www.ilga.gov by typing “HJRCA31” into the search engine on the left side.

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