Recall efforts in 2020 rose by nearly 50% compared to 2019

Ballotpedia’s year-end analysis of 2020’s state and local recall efforts found that there were 226 recall efforts against 272 officials this year, compared to 151 efforts against 230 officials in 2019. This was a 49.7% year-over-year increase in recall efforts and an 18.3% increase in officials who faced recall efforts. Over a five-year span, 2020 had the third-highest number of recall efforts; 2016 had the most with 282.

However, 2020 had the lowest success rate for recall efforts. Out of those 226 recall efforts, 29 were approved for a success rate of 12.8%. This was lower than the success rates of 22.5% in 2019, 37.4% in 2018, 14.9% in 2017, and 19.9% in 2016.

California had the most recall efforts of any state in 2020 with 39, but adjusted for population, Idaho and North Dakota had the most recalls per 100,000 residents with 0.67 and 0.66, respectively. The three types of elected officials who faced the most recall efforts were city council members (35% of all efforts), school board members (22%), and mayors (19%).

Four of the five notable recall efforts in Ballotpedia’s year-end report were connected to the COVID-19 pandemic:

  • Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer (D) was the subject of 20 recall efforts in 2020, nine of which were approved for petition signature circulation. Recall proponents criticize Whitmer’s executive orders responding to the pandemic.
  • Snohomish County Sheriff Adam Fortney in Washington is facing recall due to his April announcement that his office would not enforce the restrictions Gov. Jay Inslee (D) had set in place in response to the pandemic.
  • A majority of the Pocatello-Chubbuck school board in Idaho is facing recall due to their September vote approving a hybrid teaching model that uses a mixture of in-person and online instruction for students due to the pandemic.
  • Seattle Councilmember Kshama Sawant in Washington is facing recall due to allegations she had disregarded COVID-19 regulations, misused city funds, misused her official position, and relinquished the authority of her office to an outside political organization.

The fifth notable recall effort in the year-end report centered on Stevensville Mayor Brandon Dewey in Montana, who was accused of violating his oath of office by signing a $79,800 contract with a technology vendor without receiving approval from the town council first.

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