While Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker’s recall was by far the most prominent — it was only the third time a governor has ever faced a recall in U.S. history, and the first time one survived such a vote — there were plenty of other noteworthy attempts to bounce officials before their terms were up. The reasons for voter ire were quite varied, spanning the spectrum from taxes and government spending to gay rights to officials’ malfeasance.
Outside of Wisconsin, the most prominent set of recalls in the country were of three councilmen in Fullerton, Calif. They were removed from office after a homeless man was allegedly beaten to death by police. Fullerton offers a stark illustration of one of the major reasons why the recall has grown so popular. If it wasn’t for technology to help spread the message and the outrage, the Fullerton councilmen could probably have weathered the storm. Instead, their opponents organized online, where they could easily share video of the alleged incident of police brutality. Politically, this was incredibly effective.
The Wisconsin recalls were of the same vein. In the past, few would have cared about the goings-on in a state government. But thanks to 24-hour cable news, the internet, social media, and email, the Wisconsin labor battle and resulting gubernatorial recall became one of the biggest stories of 2011 and 2012. Union and business leaders felt the value of Wisconsin was so worthwhile that they spent a combined $125 million for the recall campaigns.