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Published: Monday, 1/23/2012

Angry voters

Opponents of Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker have collected more than a million signatures -- twice the number needed -- to force a recall election. But voter anger, however justified, about cuts in health benefits, less money for education, and restrictions on collective bargaining by public employees still does not provide enough reason to toss the Republican governor out of office before his term is up.

During his 2010 campaign, Mr. Walker promised to create jobs, reduce spending, and balance the state budget without raising taxes. A year after he took office, the jobs outlook is still bleak, but many people in Wisconsin are angrier about the campaign pledges he kept.

Democrats, who lost control of the state legislature in the same election, and public and private unions are leading the charge to unseat Mr. Walker, the Republican lieutenant governor, and four GOP state senators. Governor Walker is raising money to keep his job, attending fund-raisers out of state.

Nationally, only two governors have been recalled: California Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier in 1921. Wisconsin voters should think hard before they make Mr. Walker the third. Such a serious matter should not be undertaken lightly, in anger, or for partisan reasons.

Most states allow for impeachment of a governor, but only 19 states, including Michigan, have a mechanism for a recall vote. In eight states, recall can occur only if the governor has committed specific crimes or infractions.

Recall advocates argue that Governor Walker's initiatives have harmed poor and old people, children, unions, and the middle class. But they aren't crimes.

Wisconsin voters should direct their anger at themselves for electing a governor who did what he said he would do. The proper outlet for their dissatisfaction is the ballot box, but in 2014, not 2012.

Gov. John Kasich similarly annoyed many Ohio voters when he balanced the state budget on the backs of local governments and schools, sold profitable state assets, and tried to curtail the collective-bargaining power of public-employee unions. But neither the Ohio Constitution nor state law allows statewide elected officials to be recalled, so he doesn't have to worry about facing a challenge like Mr. Walker's.

Still, Mr. Kasich should pay attention to Wisconsin. Ohio voters are angry about government spending too. But polls suggest they are not convinced that the solution is to throw schools, workers' rights, children, and poor and elderly Ohioans under the bus.

After Issue 2 lost last November, Mr. Kasich said he had heard voters' voices. But if voters decide he remains tone deaf, they can reiterate their message at the next gubernatorial election.

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