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Petition to recall Lauren McLean filed. Q&A on what happens next

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A group of Boiseans filed a petition to recall Boise Mayor Lauren McLean Wednesday, the Boise City Clerk tells BoiseDev. We have not seen the formal petition just yet – but are told it will be filed with the Ada County Clerk this afternoon.

The petition should include language outlining why the group hopes to recall McLean. We will update when we receive the documentation. McLean’s office was not immediately available for comment.

McLean joins Gov. Brad Little as the target of recall efforts in recent months.

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What does the petition say?

According to a copy of the blank petition provided by organizers to BosieDev, this is the justification for the recall:

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“Only after she was elected to the office, we, the citizens of Boise, learned through her statements and the Final Transition Team Report that Mayor Mclean’s (sic) vision and intent for Boise does not represent the will or values of the people who elected her, e.g., Sex Education for Pre-K to 12th, FREE (taxpayer-Funded) Contraception and Abortion, Sanctuary City (ending coordination and collaboration of local police and all city government with ICE, and stop collecting and sharing any immigration data), Anti 2nd Amendment, to name a few. During the campaign, she was less than transparent to the registered electors of the City of Boise, hence, misleading the people to vote her into office. Her policy roadmap that is now disclosed to the people does not represent the will of the people and is not aligned with the values held by the citizens;…”

In May, McLean told BoiseDev that the transition reports are not her policy.

“There are things a city just can’t do,” McLean said in May. “These are not policy documents – they are reports to my administration. There were 350 recommendations across those six reports. I wanted the public to see what I had seen and the diversity of thought and opinion in our community.”

McLean said the document was being misconstrued.

“I’m disappointed that one subcommittee in my transition report was singled out by an advocacy group,” she said in May. “I’ve said I want to be transparent in the information I receive, and respect and honor the work of 72 volunteers and the hard work in their transition reports. The Idaho Freedom Foundation picked up one report of six. They are dividing our community at a time we need to come together around economic recovery and deep and serious challenges we have. That’s my focus and the focus of our city.”

[McLean pushes back on criticism of transition report: ‘these are not policy documents’]

What happens now?

If the 20 signatures on the initial recall petition are valid, the group will have 75 days to collect additional signatures from registered Boise voters. Idaho State Code says to recall a city officeholder like McLean, the group would need to collect a signature from 20% of the number of “registered electors” in the last general city election. According to data from the Ada County Clerk, there were 130,539 registered voters in November. This would mean the group would need to collect 26,108 signatures by about Monday, September 28.

If they get the signatures, then what?

The group must then turn in the signatures collected to the Boise City Clerk. That office would then work to certify the signatures. Each signature must include the person’s name and address. Any person not living in the Boise city limits, or not registered to vote, will not count.

A special election?

If the petition gathers the needed signatures, and if the clerk certifies enough are valid, the officeholder, in this case McLean, would then be given the chance to resign within five days. If they do not, a special election would be held.

Ada County Clerk Phil McGrane said petition organizers would need to turn in signatures about 20 business days before the state deadline to add a recall to the November ballot. This is time needed for his office to verify signatures and certify the petition is valid. The cutoff date is September 21 – 20 business days before that is August 28.

If the organizers turn in the required signatures and they are deemed valid after the deadline, a recall election would not take place until March.

Is it a simple majority?

A simple majority – no.

From the Idaho Secretary of State: “To recall any officer, a majority of the votes cast at the special recall election must be in favor of such recall, and additionally, the number of votes cast in favor of the recall, must equal or exceed the votes cast at the last general election for that officer.”

In simpler terms – to vote McLean out, more folks would have to vote to recall her than voted for her in the last general election. That means at least 23,670 people would need to vote for her recall, one more vote than she received last November. It would also need to be a majority of the ballots cast in the special election.

Can petitions be put out at businesses?

In a Facebook post from purported recall organizer Lynn Bradescu, she signaled the group would put petitions out at some businesses.

“Own a business in Boise but live outside city limits? Many are volunteering to have signing sheets in their Boise businesses!,” Bradescu wrote.

This is illegal.

The Idaho Secretary of State notes that all petitions must be witnessed by a signature gatherer: “Petitions cannot be left on a counter, unattended, for people to read and sign. All signatures must be witnessed by the signature gatherer.”

After the initial publication of this story, Bradescu told BoiseDev she had copy and pasted someone else’s comments. She said petitions would not be left out unattended at businesses.

If the signatures are gathered, certified and enough people vote for the recall, who would replace her?

The voters would not get a say. Instead, the Boise City Council would choose a new mayor from among its membership. Council President Elaine Clegg, Council President Pro Tem Holli Woodings and members Patrick Bageant, Jimmy Hallyburton, Lisa Sanchez, and TJ Thomson would each be eligible. Voters in Boise could then vote for a new mayor, or could re-elect the elevated council member, in 2023.

Has this happened before?

Yes. A group of citizens worked to recall one-time Boise Mayor Brent Coles after he was suspected of breaking the law. He later resigned his office and was convicted. The organizers of that recall handed in 26,000 signatures (they needed 18,693 at the time due to a smaller electorate in 2003). The city clerk never certified the recall, because Coles resigned before it was necessary.

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Don Day
Don is the founder and editor of BoiseDev. He is a National Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a Stanford University John S. Knight Fellow.

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