Politics can get extremely controversial. One need only spend about five minutes — or less — watching the evening news to see examples that prove such a statement. The unfortunate thing is that emotion — not logic — is often the driving force in political debate.
We need look no further than the recent topic of refugee resettlement in Burleigh County to see a local example of this. And to be fair, no side of the debate was void of examples of emotion either.
As you might recall, turnout was so high at the initial meeting on the topic, that it had to be moved to a larger venue on a later date. This ultimately resulted in a packed house, of an estimated 500 people, where — for about four hours — one person after another lined up to let their voices be heard. And when all was said and done, a 3-2 vote by the Burleigh County Commission gave their approval for resettlement to continue.
In the aftermath of the meeting, many Burleigh County residents expressed their disappointment at the outcome. Mixed in with those comments were cries for — and even threats of — a recall for those who voted in favor of resettlement.
Now, don’t get me wrong. While they rarely happen, recall elections are indeed a valid way for voters to evoke change when those representing them are not meeting expectations. But if those threatening such a thing aren’t willing to follow through, it may actually embolden those they want to oust.
Burleigh County Commissioner Mark Armstrong may be an example of this. Yesterday, the commission considered a proposal to have a nonbinding straw poll to determine how the public at large feels about resettlement. It was defeated by the very same 3-2 vote that authorized resettlement to continue— with Armstrong being one of the three.
“Certainly the recourse if people are unhappy with our decision is to recall us.” — Burleigh County Commissioner Mark Armstrong
I admit it’s somewhat speculative, but it seems to me that Armstrong is more than happy to call people’s bluff. He’s undoubtedly heard the talk of recall — with seemingly no movement of actually having one at this point — and he seems more than comfortable with the votes that he has cast. Put it all together, and I’m guessing he may not feel like his seat is really in jeopardy.
Let me be clear, I’m not saying that Armstrong is safe. I’m not saying that at all. Absent a recall election, he’ll still have to face voters at the end of his current term. But that isn’t until the General Election of 2022. Are those who would like to see him ousted more likely to be successful by carrying through with a recall in the immediate or waiting for November 2022 to roll around? Or doesn’t it matter?
As a side note, Armstrong was the leading vote getter — by over 2,200 votes — in the November 2018 General Election. Take that for what it’s worth, but it might just play into the confidence he has in mentioning the recall option himself.
Like it or not, a lot of voters have short memories. By November of 2022, the topic of refugee resettlement may not even be much of an issue anymore— if it’s one at all. Which just might be an example of why those who threaten a recall election should be prepared to follow through with one.
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