Recall, a method by which, in certain state and local governments, the voters may remove a public official from office before his regular term expires. If an official is corrupt, inefficient, or unpopular the voters may start a petition for his recall. If the petition is signed by a certain percentage of the voters, the official must submit to a recall election. In some states and cities the voters decide the question of removal in one election and, if a majority favors removal, vote at a later date on a replacement. In other localities, however, both questions are settled on the same occasion, which means, in effect, that the official must run against an opponent.
The recall was used in ancient Greece and is used in modern Switzerland. Los Angeles was the first major United States city to adopt the plan (1903), and many others soon followed. Beginning with Oregon in 1908, more than 15 states and possessions of the United States adopted the recall in some form. In practice, the recall has been used mostly in cities, but in 1921 North Dakota voters removed their governor and two other officials from office.