Mayor and city council recall effort underway in Lincoln, Nebraska

An effort is underway in Lincoln, Nebraska, to recall Mayor Leirion Gaylor Baird and city council members James Michael Bowers, Richard Meginnis, Jane Raybould, and Tammy Ward. Petitions were filed with the Lancaster County election commissioner on October 26. Each official is given 20 days to submit a statement of defense, after which the election commissioner has five days to approve the petitions for circulation. Recall organizers will then have 30 days to gather signatures.

The recall effort is organized by a group called LNK Recall in response to the appointment of Lincoln-Lancaster County Health Director Pat Lopez on August 17, 2020. The Lincoln City Council suspended city charter rules that give the public an opportunity to weigh in on the appointment, allowing for an immediate vote to appoint Lopez as health director.

Petition language against Baird states, “Mayor Baird sought out and obtained open-ended authoritarian control and used it to attack our liberty, usurp legislative authority, silence our voices, misuse our police, destroy our small businesses, sow discord in our community and allowed vandalism in our city. We the people do hereby intend to stop her assault on the citizens and Good Life of Lincoln.”

Petition language against the council members states, “City Council ignored them (Lincoln citizens) and voted to suspend councils own rules anyway, in order to cancel the remaining required hearing and vote immediately, silencing the voice of Lincoln citizens.”

In response to the recall effort, Baird said, “I am focused every minute on doing the job that the people of Lincoln elected me to do. Right now, that includes working with the City Council and our Health Department to lead the city through an unprecedented global pandemic. I am not going to be distracted by a small group of people who want to divide our community.”

The number of valid signatures required to force a recall election is 35% of the total votes cast for the office in the last general election. To put the recall elections on the ballot, petitioners would need 21,652 valid signatures against Baird, 4,864 valid signatures against Bowers, 8,009 valid signatures against Meginnis, 5,362 valid signatures against Raybould, and 2,495 valid signatures against Ward.

In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

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