Do Colorado Recalls Point To A Trend?06:50
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In this photo taken May 24, 2013, a large sign posted at the entrance of Paradise Firearms in Colorado Springs, Colo., invites customers to sign a recall petition against Colorado Democratic State Senate President John Morse. (Ed Andrieski/AP)
In this photo taken May 24, 2013, a large sign posted at the entrance of Paradise Firearms in Colorado Springs, Colo., invites customers to sign a recall petition against Colorado Democratic State Senate President John Morse. (Ed Andrieski/AP)

In recall elections in Colorado last night, two Democratic state senators who supported Colorado's new gun restrictions were tossed out of office.

Millions of dollars in outside money were poured into the two-month campaign.

Last year, Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker survived a recall election. But 2011 set a record for the number of state legislator recall elections, and Wisconsin led the way.

Jennie Drage Bowser, a senior fellow at the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), says there have been 38 elections in U.S. history to recall a legislator, and 17 of them have happened since 2011.

Bowser says these recalls raise a fundamental questions about what it means to have a representative democracy.

"Is a legislator supposed to just take a public opinion poll on every issue and vote according to the will of the majority — is that what it means to represent your constitutions?" Bowser asked Here & Now. "Or should a legislator take into account the fact and the opinions they hear throughout a policy debate, take into concern the voice of minorities on that issue and their own conscience and moral beliefs as they decide how to vote?"

Bowser says there has been an uptick in other direct democracy devices as well, including referenda and ballot initiatives.

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This segment aired on September 11, 2013.

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