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Introduction What is Citizenship? What Does It Take to Be a U.S. Citizen? Becoming a Citizen Alone We Are Free! Creating a Community Acting Like a Citizen The Matching Game Power for the People Civil Yet Disobedient Is This Civil Disobedience or Isn't It? Demonstrating an Opinion Citizens' Rights Balancing the Scales More Scales to Balance

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What is Citizenship? Attitudes and Actions Responsible Citizenship Communicating Keeping Freedom What Do You Think?

Power for the People

A Lesson in the Power of the People

Note: This article appeared in Scholastic UPDATE in 1988. The story provides a useful example of "people power."

Arizona is offering America a rare lesson in the power of citizens to challenge their leaders.  Angry Arizonians by the thousands was to oust their governor, Evan Mecham, before his term ends in 1991.

In 1986, Mecham, a Republican, won election with a minority of the vote.  The bulk of ballots were split between two Democratic opponents.  But Mecham had hardly settled into office when outraged citizens were demanding his ouster.  The spark that ignited the fight was Mecham's overturning of Jan. 15 as a state holiday honoring Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the civil–rights leader who was assassinated in 1968.

Mecham said that former Gov. Bruce Babbit's declaration of the holiday was illegal.  Only the legislature can authorize holidays and it had refused to do so.  But Mecham didn't help his cause when he said that King wasn't worth a holiday.

His remarks on other issues fueled the fire.  Gay–rights groups fumed when he said homosexuals don't have civil rights. Others opposed a planned $50 million cut in the education budget.  Some of Mecham's appointees were seen as unqualified for their jobs.  And there was the matter of a $350,000 campaign loan he failed to declare.

But what could opponents do?

Under Arizona law, voters can force a special "recall" election.  Mecham's opponents had to gather, on petitions, voters' signatures equaling 25 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial elections –– in this case 216,746 votes.

More than 300,000 signatures were collected.  After Jan. 18, Gov. Mecham had five days to decide whether or not to quit.  If he refuses, a recall elections, pitting him against other candidates, must be held between May 12 and June 13.

Only one other state governor has ever been recalled.  North Dakota voters did it 67 years ago.  Will history repeat itself?

–Peter M. Jones¹

Note: Mecham was later removed from office by impeachment following his conviction for obstruction of justice and the misue of government funds. This occurred before the recall election could take place.

¹From Scholastic UPDATE.  Copyright © 1988 by Scholastic Inc.  All rights reserved.

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If you’re going to all the trouble of catalyzing your community, don’t hide it under a bushel. Your community should be an integral part of your lives. Use your people power and publicize the existence of your community!

*Citizenship section select ideas derived from Citizenship, Learning to Live as Responsible Citizens, published by Good Apple, Inc.

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