How Can an Elected Official Be Removed From Office?

According to the National Conference of State Legislators, a common method to remove an elected official from office is to use a recall election or to impeach an elected official. Recall elections involve citizen mobilization in effect to begin a new election. Impeachment involves a formal removal process through the approval of other elected officials.

To remove an elected official through a recall election, citizens or citizen groups must gather a minimum number of signatures on formal documents provided through a state’s secretary of state office or local election commission. Citizens must gather enough signatures to represent a percentage of the population. Media campaigns raise awareness of an impending recall election and drive to collect signatures. In a more formal process, Congress removes the president of the United States through an impeachment process. Individual citizens do not participate in the impeachment process. Both the U.S. House and U.S. Senate must vote to remove a president from office through an impeachment process constituting a formal congressional trial.

Recall elections are most frequent at the local government level. There have been two incidences of impeachment of an American president in the U.S. House; however both were acquitted at the trials held by the Senate. Impeached U.S. Presidents include Andrew Johnson (1868) and Bill Clinton (1999).