The ethics troubles of current Lieutenant Governor Ken Ard are leading a growing number of Democrats to push for the ability to recall elected officials.
Rep. Boyd Brown (D-Fairfield) says he will introduce a bill that would allow voters to remove an elected official from office. “If the people we elect don’t do what we elected them to do and they embarrass us or act inappropriately, then the people of South Carolina ought to have a mechanism in place to remove that person from office,” he said.
Brown attempted similar legislation two years ago after former Governor Mark Sanford ran into ethics problems. It failed to reach the floor, although 65 members co-sponsored it. Brown said he had bipartisan support both then and now, “I think it would be a Tea Party-backed bill, probably the one time I’ll agree with the Tea Party on anything.”
If the Legislature does approve the bill, which appears unlikely at the moment, it would go to voters as a constitutional question in the 2012 election.
Democrats picked up an unlikely ally in Governor Nikki Haley, who told reporters Thursday she would support recall legislation, as long as it included legislators, as well. “Anything that empowers the voters I’m always going to support,” she said. Haley did not attach her name to the 2009 legislation at the time, although other Republicans did.
The legislation would require 15 percent of voters from the previous election to sign a recall petition. Those signatures would then have to be verified. Some legislators are concerned the 15 percent threshold is too low. Brown said he would support raising that number and that he only wanted it as a starting point for negotiations.
A bipartisan effort by some senators, led by Mike Rose (R-Dorchester) and Phil Leventis (D-Sumter), to pass recall legislation earlier this year failed.
Brown said 19 other states already have recall laws. The most famous case of a gubernatorial recall was likely in 2003, when Arnold Schwarzenegger was first elected governor of California after previous governor Gray Davis was recalled by voters.