Monday, January 29, 2007

Party switching and recounts -- Montana election law bills introduced

Sen. Dan McGee, R-Laurel, has introduced legislation that would add party-switching to the list of reasons why Montana elected official can be subject to a recall election.

The subject is obviously fresh in Republican minds, because of the Kitzenberg switch that threw control of the Senate to the Democrats this session.

Kitzenberg's switch was dirty politics, but then that is probably a redundancy. There have been many high-profile party switches, and nationwide, Republicans have been the beneficiaries far more often than have Democrats in the modern era.

It is still a reasonable law, since many people calculate the question of which party they want in control into their vote. Were this not so, Democrats would have no reason to crow (as they are doing) that the Republican party's performance received failing marks in the last election. If every election were simply about which person voters wanted into office, the last election cycle could only be read as a large series of individual failures by Republican U.S. Representatives and Senators.

A good case can be made that this was actually true to a large extent. If one were to remove races that turned to a large part on public or private scandals (as Montanans know as well as anyone), the Republicans would still control the U.S. Senate and be very close in the House.

The only way to find out what voters really want is in an election where all of the facts are laid before them, and a recall election is one way to do that -- albeit a risky one, since if the party asking for the recall loses such a high-profile recall election take an even bigger political hit.

There is also always the old-fashioned way: simply take the hit, let public opinion work its magic, take time to evaluate why the switch happened, and then trounce the opposing party in the next election.