This “Law You Can Use” consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was prepared by Philip C. Richter, Executive Director of the Ohio Elections Commission.
A: Recall is a method that can be used to remove an official from a public office before the end of his or her term. A recall election is a right reserved to the people served by the official. It can only take place after a petition signed by the required number of qualified voters is certified.
Q: Could an Ohio governor be removed through a recall election?
A: No. Neither the Ohio constitution nor the Ohio Revised Code (ORC), Ohio’s collection of written laws, provide for recall elections for statewide offices. For this reason, Ohio voters cannot use recall to remove a governor.
Q: Can a city official be recalled in Ohio?
A: Yes. The ORC provides that any elective officer of a municipality may be removed from office by qualified voters as long as that official has served at least one year of his or her term. Although state law allows cities to hold recall elections, any particular city’s charter may either allow or forbid such an election. The wording of the city charter determines whether recall is an option.
Q: Assuming a city’s charter allows it, how can a city official be recalled in Ohio?
A: In Ohio, a petition must be signed by qualified voters. By law, the number of signatures required must equal at least 15 percent of the total votes cast at the most recent municipal election. In the petition, the voters demand that the city official in question be removed in favor of another official to be chosen by the voters in a recall election. This petition must be filed with the board of elections. If the board of elections finds the petition to be valid and the official in question does not resign from office within five days, then the lawmaking authority in that city may set a day for a recall election. The recall election is held 30 to 40 days after the petition is validated.
Q: Would I be voting for one person over another in a recall election, like in a regular election?
A: No. You actually have two separate votes. The first vote asks you to decide, with a “yes” or “no” vote, whether you wish to remove the official from office. The second vote asks you to select, from a list of qualified candidates, a successor for that official. The second vote is considered only if the first vote results in the removal of the official. The official who voters are being asked to recall may not include his or her name as one of these candidates to be considered.
Q: How would a successor candidate qualify for the ballot?
A: In a recall election, there is no primary election. Rather, a candidate who wants to replace the incumbent must file his or her intent to run for office with the board of elections at least 20 days before the special election. Each candidate must provide a petition with signatures equal to 10 percent of the total votes cast at the most recent regular municipal election. Call your local board of elections to get the exact number of signatures required.
Q: How many votes are needed to recall an official?
A: If a majority of voters decide the official should be removed, then the official will be removed. Whoever is chosen to succeed the official will then hold office for the remainder of the recalled official’s unexpired term.
Q: If the official is not recalled, can he or she be compensated for recall election expenses?
A: Yes. If the voters decide to keep the official in office after a recall election, that official is entitled to be repaid his or her actual and legitimate expenses from the city treasury, up to 50 percent of allowed campaign expenses for any regular city election.