Democrats are going to court in Nevada on Wednesday to try to stop a recall election that they fear could lead to new efforts to wipe out legislative majorities across the country.
Republicans in Nevada are seeking to recall two senators who were elected in 2016 – without alleging any wrongdoing on the part of the senators.
Why oust Sens. Joyce Woodhouse and Nicole Cannizzaro? Because both are Democrats, and if the GOP can flip two seats, it will take control of the state Senate.
If the recall effort succeeds, it could provide a model to flip legislatures across the nation in the 20 states that allow the process, putting all narrowly divided legislative bodies in those states at risk.
In Washington state, Democrats’ narrow majorities in the Senate and House could be in jeopardy. And the GOP’s hold on the senates of Colorado and Minnesota could also be overturned through recalls.
“If we no longer have fixed terms of office and we can all just gather signatures and call elections anytime it suits us, you’re going to see a very different type of system,” said Marc Elias, the Democratic elections lawyer who is attempting to stop the Nevada recalls in court.
It would create a “banana republic system,” Elias said. “Any state that allows for recall will be fair game if Republicans are able to succeed and turn an exceptional circumstance – calling for a recall – into the ordinary circumstance.”
A district court judge is set to hear arguments about the validity of the recall efforts Wednesday. Elias said he will argue that some signers of the recall petition didn’t understand the effort at the time and now want their names withdrawn.
Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, a popular Republican, has opposed the recall effort, telling The Nevada Independent it would set a “dangerous precedent.”
“It’s never happened before, but it probably will likely become another typical arrow in the quiver for both parties,” Sandoval said. “I hope it doesn’t, but again, if it’s successful, and the voters do recall these individuals, I can’t see why all of them wouldn’t use it going forward.”
But Republican Senate leader Michael Roberson, who did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday, has supported the recall effort.
In an op-ed for The Las Vegas Review-Journal, he accused Democrats of backing a “radical agenda.”
“After witnessing the most pro-felon, anti-jobs agenda in state history pushed by Senate Democrats, I believe all 11 current members of the Senate Democratic Caucus should be forced to stand for recall elections,” Roberson wrote.
Recalls are rare – but several have commanded national attention in recent decades.
In 2011, Democrats famously responded to Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signing into law strict anti-labor union measures by recalling Walker and four GOP state senators. The next year, Walker won his recall election.
California Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was recalled in 2003 in a series of events that put Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger in the governor’s office.