Step One Towards a Recall Election in Exeter

The Projo’s Amanda Milkovits reported today that the first step towards a possible recall election in Exeter has gone forward, with petitions asking for a recall election for 4 of the 5 town councilors having been submitted to the Board of Canvassers…

The petitioners needed 496 signatures, 10 percent of registered voters, for each council member. Monday, they turned petitions in for all four, signed by 605 people.

The town Board of Canvassers will meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. to begin verifying the signatures, said Chairwoman Mary B. Hall….

Milkovits’ article does a very good job walking through the steps, related to Rhode Island gun laws, which have led to this point. In brief, the major factors are:

  1. The existence of different processes in Rhode Island law for obtaining a permit to carry a firearm off of your own property, one that runs through the Attorney General’s office and one that runs through the local police chief;
  2. The police-chief option not being available to residents of Exeter, because Exeter has no police chief, because Exeter has no local police department;
  3. The existence of an additional process in the law that says that, in a town with no police chief, the town clerk will be responsible for issuing firearms permits;
  4. The key difference between the processes being that the law states that police chiefs and town clerks (in Exeter) “shall issue” permits, while the Attorney General only “may issue” them;
  5. The current Exeter town council asking the General Assembly earlier in this year (via non-binding resolution) to remove from the law the town clerk process for issuance of firearms permits…
  6. …which would limit residents of Exeter to access to a “may issue” process only, raising a fundamental question of rights.

According to Milkovits’ article, the town clerk currently does not have access the same range of resources when performing a firearms background check that a police chief does.  However, it should also be noted that Exeter is not without policing; the Rhode Island State Police handle the major police responsibilities there and if they are already coordinating activities with Exeter, it does not seem like it would be a big jump to create a process where they could also support the town clerk’s background checks — assuming, of course, that the recalcitrant buffoonishness that has infected multiple organs of American government hasn’t yet paralyzed the Rhode Island State Police or the town of Exeter.

Finally (for the moment), according to the town charter of Exeter, if the recall is successful, the recalled seat is immediately filled by “the candidate who received the highest number of votes among the unsuccessful candidates for the Council at the last Town election” up to “the highest three vote getters”. Any seat vacated beyond the third is filled by council appointment, and there are four candidates named on the recall petition.

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