21 Feb 2024

opinions:

Recalls couldn’t be more democratic and pro-Home Rule

Michael Bekesha. Photo courtesy of Michal Bekesha.

This opinion was written by Michael Bekesha. Michael is a former candidate to the Ward 6 council seat. He resides in Hill East.

As many DC residents are starting to learn, there is an effort underway to recall Ward 6 Councilmember Charles Allen. While the recall supporters focus on the rise of crime and CM Allen’s role in it, some recall opponents cry foul. They allege the recalling of an elected official is undemocratic and anti-Home Rule. Or, as Tommy Wells bluntly put it, “This is a home rule issue.”

Having served as councilmember and being a DC statehood advocate, Mr. Wells ought to know a thing or two about democracy and Home Rule. He probably knows that the people of DC created a process to hold its elected officials to account. After readings on April 5, 1977, May 3, 1977, and May 17, 1977, a unanimous, locally-elected DC council passed the “Initiative, Referendum, and Recall Charter Amendments Act of 1977″. The locally elected mayor, Walter Washington, approved of the process change on June 14, 1977. Then, on November 8, 1977, registered DC voters ratified the change.


The specific change of relevance here was “Charter Amendment No. 2 – Recall of Elected Public Officials,” containing six sections. Section 1 defines “recall” as the process by which registered voters “may call for the holding of an election to remove or retain an elected official… prior to the expiration of his or her term.” Section 2 lays out the process and schedule for collecting signatures and placing the recall question on the ballot. Section 3 states that the recall process may not be initiated within the first or last years of the elected official’s term. Section 4 states that an elected official is removed with a majority vote. Sections 5 and 6 are solely administrative in nature. In its entirety, the stated purpose of the charter amendment was “to amend the Charter of the District of Columbia to provide for the power of initiative, referendum, and recall.”

Ward 6 voters are now using the process created for the District, by the District. I don’t know if Mr. Wells and CM Allen truly believe that the recall process is undemocratic and anti-Home Rule or if that is a common refrain from targets of recalls. However, if they don’t think the recall process is democratic, they could have done something about it. They have had a combined total of 17 years as members of the DC Council to seek amendment to the process.  Since as far as I can tell, they haven’t done so, crying foul now ––when the process is being used against their own self-interests–– is just grandstanding. Using a process passed by a locally elected council, approved by a locally elected mayor, and ratified by DC voters could not be more pro-democracy or pro-Home Rule.


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