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Confirmed: broken LA recall rules need repair

If we needed any more confirmation about the necessity of changing Louisiana’s recall law, it came with the surrender of a high-profile campaign against Jefferson Parish Pres. Mike Yenni.

In 2016, not long after his election, news reached the public consciousness that Yenni had engaged in inappropriate exchanges with a male minor willing to go on the record that prompted Yenni to deliver a vague apology. Subsequently, both parish and Catholic schools banned his appearance on their properties. The Parish Council also asked formally for his resignation.

This led to a spirited attempt at a recall petition against Yenni, requiring signatures of a third of qualified electors in the parish within six months of registering the attempt. However, last week organizers admitted failure with the deadline fast approaching, apparently well short of the roughly 90,000 signers needed.

If nothing else, this demonstrates the uselessness of the state’s recall procedures past a certain point. In fact, in its history, no jurisdiction with more than 25,000 registered voters ever has triggered successfully a recall. Consider that Yenni’s 2015 election drew not even 88,000 participants, below the target needed.

Compared to all other states with a recall mechanism on the books, Louisiana by far has the toughest standards. While the more relaxed one for lower-populated constituencies – 40 percent of the qualified electors within the voting area where fewer than 1,000 qualified electors reside in the voting area – seems to work and has provided the bulk of the nearly 120 challenges historically of the past half-century , the strictures for any populations above act essentially as a glass ceiling not only for success, but also in just giving the people a chance to toss an elected official.

If any official’s behavior could surmount this obstacle, Yenni’s would have with a 70 percent disapproval rate after his admission. That it didn’t ratifies the unrealism of the current standard for higher-population constituencies; there might as well not be law at all.

So, reform is in order. Republican state Rep. Paul Hollis in particular has pledged to introduce a bill to do just that, although he has yet to reveal its specifics. He may choose from plenty of state models with much lower thresholds such as Oregon and California, which consistently bring officials with expansive constituencies to a revote of the people that sometimes results in officers getting booted. Instructively, governing chaos never has resulted from their dozens of successful high-level recalls over the past few decades.

Hollis and reformers may encounter resistance in the Legislature, as by relaxing the draconian rules legislators run greater risk of the new process allowing voters to give them the heave-ho. But Louisiana needs to pay more than lip service to the recall concept, so to avoid disingenuousness on the issue policy-makers must see through such a change.

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