Constitutional FAQ Answer #130 – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net

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.

Last Modified: 16 Aug 2010

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