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Published: Monday, 4/11/2011

No recall vote

IT DIDN'T take Gov. John Kasich long to alienate a lot of Ohioans. But that's not a good enough reason to give disgruntled voters the ability to recall state officeholders at the drop of a hat.

Two Democratic state lawmakers say they plan to introduce a bill in the Ohio House this week that would allow election do-overs whenever a few hundred thousand angry voters are willing to sign a recall petition. The legislators cite the new state law that limits the collective-bargaining rights of public employees, the Republican governor's proposed two-year budget, and a recent poll that pegged Mr. Kasich's approval rating among Ohioans at 30 percent.

The proposal would make Ohio the 20th state to allow the recall of state officeholders. It will be dead on arrival in the Republican-controlled General Assembly. That's as it should be.

Under the bill, it would take 577,870 signatures -- just 7 percent of eligible voters -- to force a vote to recall Mr. Kasich. This is not a road Ohioans should want to go down. It would lead to a future in which there's a new election every time a voting bloc doesn't get its way or is momentarily disillusioned with an elected official. That would defeat the purpose of representative government, which exists specifically so that citizens don't have to decide every issue by popular vote.

The prospect of recall could make elected officials even more afraid to do anything at all. Ohio needs officeholders who do the right thing, whether or not it raises the ire of part of the electorate.

Governor Kasich hasn't done anything to justify a recall vote. He's done pretty much what he told voters he would do during last year's campaign.

The current anger is about policy differences, not criminal behavior in office. The remedy should not be to change the rules that protect elected officials from the momentary passions of voters.

There are a couple of better solutions, neither of which requires legislative action. The first is for more Ohioans to vote in regular elections. Not quite half of Ohio's eligible voters cast ballots in last November's general election.

Of the nearly 4 million ballots that were cast, more than 100,000 did not include a vote for governor. Mr. Kasich got about 49 percent of the vote for governor to Democratic incumbent Ted Strickland's 47 percent. The rest of the votes went to three minor candidates.

So Mr. Kasich won the election with the votes of fewer than one-fourth of Ohio's eligible voters. The complaints now of those who didn't vote are hollow.

While it's too late to change the results of the last election, you always have the opportunity to let elected officials know how you feel about the job they're doing. Mr. Kasich won't pay much attention to angry partisan Democrats, but the 70 percent of Ohioans who say they aren't happy with the governor today includes many who voted for him.

Their displeasure will be noticed. Count on it.



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