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Constitutional FAQ Answer #130

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Q130. "I know the state of California recently did a recall election on their governor. Can recalls be done against any elected officials?"

A. The recallability of any state or local elected official is subject to the laws of the state or locality, so it is hard to give a general answer to that part of the question. The President and Vice President can only be removed via impeachment. The other elected federal officials are Senators and Representatives. The Constitution does not specify that they can be recalled, nor does it say that they cannot be. The courts have never ruled on the subject. So the question is unresolved. However, several things point to the unconstitutionality of recalls of federal officers. First, the terms of Senators and Representative are set to six and two years respectively; a recall would effective reduce the term. Second, the Supreme Court has said that Senators and Representatives cannot have term limits; a recall is akin to a term limit in its practical application. Lastly, each house of Congress has the power to expel members; if a member has committed acts that could lead to a recall, the acts could just as easily lead to expulsion. It is likely that a vote of no confidence from a state's electorate would go a long way in influencing an expulsion vote.


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