THE ISSUE: Recall voting
OUR VIEW: Outside of Ard matter, lawmakers should consider recalls
South Carolina Democrats are attempting to make political hay from ethics issues surrounding Republican Lt. Gov. Ken Ard. In a key proposal, they have the backing of Gov. Nikki Haley.
That alone was not enough this week to get the Republican House to go along with a Democratic proposal to take up an amendment that would allow a statewide recall bill to be considered. The bill — sponsored by Reps. Boyd Brown, Todd Rutherford, Bakari Sellers, James Smith and Leon Stavrinakis — all Democrats, calls for a recall mechanism for all statewide office-holders.
Democrats contend Ard’s violations centered around misuse of campaign dollars are ample case for giving South Carolinians the chance to recall elected officials through a public vote. To make it happen, not only must lawmakers approve, voters would need to approve a constitutional amendment.
Consistently calling for Ard’s resignation, which the lieutenant governor says will not happen, Democratic Party Chairman Dick Harpootlian takes the expected approach. Recall is necessary so “the people of South Carolina can directly deal with issues like Ken Ard in the future, and they don’t have to wait for other political officials to decide, whether it is the State Ethics Commission or the attorney general or anyone else.”
The penalties levied against Ard came from the State Ethics Commission. The attorney general then investigated, deciding to turn the matter over to the Statewide Grand Jury. Ard will be the first S.C. elected official investigated by the grand jury.
Gov. Nikki Haley in this instance is siding with the Democrats. She explained by saying, “Anything that empowers the voters, I’m always going to support.”
Haley and others knew there was little chance lawmakers would debate a recall bill at this point. The legislation also would not directly impact the Ard matter.
In fact, as good as it sounds, it may have not have impact in most instances. Nineteen states and the District of Columbia give voters recall-voting power but such elections are rarely successful.
We support pushing ahead with a recall amendment, not in the political shark pool of the Ard matter, but later when lawmakers can fully discuss pros and cons. A number of Republicans should be willing to join in the effort when it is not so clearly political in nature.
For certain, the Ard case will give strength to a Haley pet proposal, putting the governor and lieutenant governor on an election ticket together the same as with the nation’s president and vice president. That change also would require voter approval of an amendment, but it seems nearly certain that could be obtained if a majority in the Legislature can get the change through.