Tea Party activists can have their shot at taking down a United States Senator by recall vote, according to a decision today by a NJ state appeals court, which ruled that New Jersey’s Secretary of State must accept a petition filed to recall Bob Menendez. The court stayed its own decision, to allow Menendez to appeal the ruling. Count on it. It is the senator’s position that such an effort against a federal lawmaker is unconstitutional.
This is a first. And it is a surprise. And no doubt, it is a muscle flex for the reactionary forces of the still-forming Tea Parties. The Appeals Court ruling found the U.S. Supreme Court has never ruled on the issue of recalling a U.S. Senator. From the decision:
Given the will of the people embodied in our state organic law, and the dearth of clear precedent nullifying the people’s enactments, we accordingly decline at this juncture to find our state constitutional provision and related stature permitting recall of a United States Senator to be unconstitutional. [snip] The silence of the federal Constitution [on recall] may well result in the conclusion that it may be done.
The action was brought by NJ Tea Parties United and the Sussex County Tea Party. Tea Party activists tried last year for permission from Secretary of State Nina Wells, under Gov. Corzine, to begin a petition recall. They went to court when that was denied.
If the petition recall is allowed to move forward, the Tea Party will be required to get one-fourth of New Jersey’s registered voters to sign their petition. That means 1.3 million signatures on the dotted line.
The Court said its decision is not “definitively valid or invalid,” and in fact put a stay on its own decision until lawyers for Senator Menendez can appeal to the New Jersey Supreme Court. But the Court was definitive in ordering the current Secretary of State to allow the petition effort of the Tea Party to move forward, should the State Supreme Court agree.
Menendez’ current term is due to end January 2013.
UPDATE: Statement of NJ State Democratic Chair John Wisniewski: These people are on a crusade to undermine the U.S. Constitution and to discredit human evolution. Those are not the kinds of radical movements that typical, hard-working folks in New Jersey sign up to join, and that’s why this group is looking to Glenn Beck for help.
Attacking the constitutionality of the Constitution is a strange, hypocritical effort, which contradicts the system of elections that most Americans have taken pride in for more than 200 years.