The Coeur d’Alene Press is the propaganda instrument of the Hagadone Corporation, so it is hardly surprising that this Sunday’s editorial titled “Clarify rules for recalls” pegs the hypocrisy meter. Now the Press wants to see Idaho’s recall election laws examined and reformed.
But where was the Press almost three years ago when Jim Brannon began an action to contest the illegal conduct of the 2009 Coeur d’Alene City election? Hiding under the beds with some District Court judges, Secretary of State Ben Ysursa, Kootenai County Clerk Dan English and Kootenai County Prosecutor Barry McHugh who did not want anyone understanding just how FUBAR Idaho’s election administration laws were. Today, those same laws are SUSFU. And that’s exactly the way the aforementioned Press and officials like them.
However, today’s editorial is particularly (albeit predictably) insidious, because it wants to amend Idaho’s Constitution and statutes to limit the people’s ability to recall elected officials.
In 2009 and through the election contest lawsuit trial in late 2010, the Press barely paid any attention to the very significant violations of Idaho’s election laws. Some of those were summarized under the heading “Results of Investigations” on pages 4-6 OpenCdA’s report titled The Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, Election Contest Lawsuit – 2009-2011. In fact, the Press barely paid any attention at all to anything connected with the election contest of the 2009 Coeur d’Alene City election. Didn’t want its readers to fully comprehend the gravity of the situation then, don’t ya know.
Yet in today’s editorial, the Press Editorial Board astonishingly seems to buy into the theory of the absurd that when the Idaho Legislature wrote that petition signature gatherers have 75 [calendar] days to gather petitions, the Legislature didn’t really mean 75 [calendar] days. Well, if not 75 [calendar] days, then how many? In 2004 Secretary of State Ben Ysursa testified before the Legislature’s House State Affairs Committee that 75 [calendar] days to gather signatures meant exactly that. Then in 2011 in “Luna Recall ver. 1.0″, Ysursa said the signature gatherers had 75 [calendar] days.
But in 2012, after receiving guidance from Coeur d’Alene City Clerk Susan Weathers (the same city clerk who hasn’t administered a Coeur d’Alene City election for over 20 years!), Rollover Ben Ysursa had an epiphany. He concluded that the Legislature has been wrong! Yep, they made a mistake! Oh, legislators probably intended that recall signature gatherers would have 75 [calendar] days to gather signature, and they may even have said that in the law, but they left one word in the 2004 amendment to the law that cast doubt (in Weathers’ mind, anyway) about their real intention. Then ol’ Ben rolled like a cheap Corvair. Yep, he decided that the Legislature really intended to use “j” numbers rather than real ones to calculate how many days Recall CdA had to gather signatures. Using Ben & Susan’s complex number theory, to this day Recall CdA still does not know how many days it had.
As bad as the 75-day fiasco was, the Press Editorial Board’s second recommendation is just plain dangerous. The Press Editorial Board wants to let someone (e.g., a beholden judge) decide if a recall should go forward.
When Idaho’s Constitution was written, the people who wrote it trusted the people who would be governed by it. The writers pretty much said that any elected official except judges could be recalled for any reason at all. Reckless wording? Nope, just trust in the judgment of the people consenting to be governed. The people who wrote Idaho’s Constitution said in Article I, Section 2:
All political power is inherent in the people. Government is instituted for their equal protection and benefit, and they have the right to alter, reform or abolish the same whenever they may deem it necessary; and no special privileges or immunities shall ever be granted that may not be altered, revoked, or repealed by the legislature.
Then in Article VI, Section 6, the Constitution’s writers made it explicit:
Every public officer in the state of Idaho, excepting the judicial officers, is subject to recall by the legal voters of the state or of the electoral district from which he is elected. The legislature shall pass the necessary laws to carry this provision into effect.
The Legislature passed the necessary laws and codified them in Idaho Code, Title 34. Nowhere in those statutes does it say, as the Press Editorial Board wishes it said and wants it to say, that “… some standard of official misconduct should be required by law. Those bringing a recall issue before the public should have to cite specific charges of malfeasance on behalf of the recall targets.”
If the Press Editorial Board on behalf of the Hagadone Corporation gets its way, what will that standard of official misconduct be? Who will decide what the “standard of official misconduct” for recall will be? Who will decide if the “specific charges of malfeasance” are sufficient?
I prefer that part of the recall law remain unchanged. Idaho’s recall laws have not been abused by the people. It is perfectly valid for qualified electors to conclude that one or more elected officials have so badly performed their official duties that they must be replaced. Bad performance need not rise to the level of “official misconduct.” The Press Editorial Board is suggesting that somehow their misconduct must be found to be criminal before the people can initiate a recall. That cedes too much of the people’s Constitutionally-provided political power.
It is unsurprising that the Press Editorial Board would prefer that. As the propaganda arm of the Hagadone Corporation, the Coeur d’Alene Press has a vested interest in assuring its parent corporation retains a disproportionate amount of control over our elected officials. We will not be surprised if next week’s Press editorial advocates doing away entirely with those pesky public elections. After all,paraphrasing a line from today’s editorial, “[Elections] are expensive for taxpayers and can take a heavy toll on a community in other ways, like civic pride and economic development.”
Idaho’s election laws do need examination, consolidation, and revision. Piecemeal revisions like those proposed by today’s Press editorial are exactly the kinds of changes that lead to more confusion about their interpretation. Uncertainty and ambiguity in election laws which result in decisions being made by beholden dead-ender judges rather than by voters may be exactly what the Press Editorial Board wants, though.