The California recall is broken.

Hindsight experts can say that our recall election’s outcome was a foregone conclusion – that the GOP’s top candidate, Larry Elder, was a polarizing demagogue and that Democrats have an overwhelming majority. However, “...a few weeks ago the polls were tied. Then we seriously mobilized, and we pushed Newsom ahead by 15 points. That’s a huge shift in a short time. We have real power when we stand up and fight.

That said, all our phonebanking, textbanking and canvassing couldn’t stop the WASTE OF OVER A QUARTER OF A BILLION OF OUR TAXPAYER DOLLARS (now estimated at +$300 million) on a GOP temper tantrum when we have sick people to treat, homeless people to house, school children to help after a year of COVID restrictions, and fire victims who are starting from scratch.

We need to update our recall laws immediately. CA’s recall madness, where this recent election day was also the deadline for a failed recall attempt against a county supervisor, doesn’t happen across the nation. For example, no matter how many signatures a petition to recall Ron DeSantis collects – his state doesn’t allow recalls. In fact, only 20 states do, and of those, eight require a serious act of malfeasance or a violation of their oath of office. We don’t. What we do have is a very low signature requirement, and a “simultaneous”-style recall,” where the lieutenant governor is ignored, and an outside candidate can take over the state with a minority of voters. These conditions make recalls the easiest pathway for the GOP, whose policies and values are completely at odds with most California voters, to “rig the system and create a low turnout election where they have a better chance” to grab the governor’s office. Thanks to the best intentions of former Gov. Hiram Johnson in 1911 – every governor since 1960 has faced at least one recall attempt.

But change is coming, if we fight for it. Secretary of State Dr. Shirley Weber stated: “This system is over 100 years old. We haven’t revised it in 100 years.SB-660, a bill that bans paying petition circulators for each signature they obtain for recall efforts, state and local initiatives, just passed and is waiting for Newsom’s signature. This will eliminate at least one incentive to deceive voters to collect more signatures. 

Reform of the recall process is popular. UC Berkeley’s Institute of Governmental Studies published a poll this week that found three out of four voters support recall elections but agree significant reform is needed. Let’s make this happen!

Tell your state legislators that we want recall election reforms!

Minimal script: I’m calling from [zip code] and I want Assemblymember/Senator [___] to improve CA’s recall laws to discourage the wasteful abuse of our state’s resources. (you can call and say just the blue parts. Our legislators should know the rest.)

  1. Change our recall to a “Retention” model. We have a “simultaneous recall” election model, which means a pageful of unqualified people to sift through on the ballot. We need a “Retention recall” format, where a successful recall is treated in the same way as any other vacancy – the lieutenant governor ascends to the governor’s post and finishes out the term of office.
  2. Put the recall target on the ballot. If the “simultaneous’- style recall is maintained, repeal Elec. Code, § 11381(c) and allow the sitting candidate to include his/her name in with the “2nd” question candidates. (SCA-3 didn’t pass. Should have.)
  3. Require just cause. This would include violating the oath of office, official misconduct or malfeasance or similar demonstrable standards. Eight states already do this.
  4. Raise the signature requirement to 25% for executive offices. Right now, CA only requires 12% to recall a governor, second lowest of all states. Most states require 25%. Louisiana requires 33.3% and Kansas requires 40%. CA actually requires a 20% minimum to recall state senators, members of the Assembly, members of the Board of Equalization, and judges of courts of appeal and trial courts
  5. Require 25% opposing party signaturesRequire true bipartisanship in a recall election by setting a minimum number of voters who belong to the same party as the targeted elected official.
  6. Increase signature minimum from 5 counties to 25%. Candidates are currently required to get 1% minimum of signatures from at least five counties.
  7. Increase initial filing requirements. Right now, it only costs $4000 and 65 signatures to launch a candidate into our elective chaos.

Contacts:
State Senator Monique Limón (SD-19): 
SAC (916) 651-4019, SB (805) 965-0862, OX (805)988-1940 email
State Assemblymember  Steve Bennett (CA-37): SAC (916) 319-2037, SB (805) 564-1649, VTA (805) 641-3700 email
Not your people?: findyourrep.legislature.ca.gov.

Resources

  • (CNBC) Gavin Newsom’s victory could trigger reform for California’s recall process
  • (calmatters) 4 needed reforms of California’s recall election rules
  • (Politico) Republican rivals attack recall frontrunner Larry Elder in California debate
  • (Findlaw) California Code, Elections Code – ELEC § 11381
  • (ballotpedia) How gubernatorial vacancies are filled
  • (ballotpedia) States with gubernatorial recall provisions
  • (Desertsun) Recalling Gavin Newsom could give Republicans the U.S. Senate
  • (elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov) Gubernatorial Recall Election Costs
  • (sos.ca.gov) California Gubernatorial Recall Election – Frequently Asked Questions
  • (NYTimes) There Is a Problem With California’s Recall. It’s Unconstitutional.
  • (Politico) Federal lawsuit challenges California recall as unconstitutional
  • (capradio) Interview: Legal Scholar Says Newsom Recall Is Unconstitutional
  • (kcrw.com) California’s recall process unconstitutional? Berkeley Law dean says it doesn’t uphold democratic majority rule
  • (newsweek) Lawsuit Argues Recall Process Violates Constitution by Excluding Newsom From Candidate List
  • (calmatters) When a recall succeeds, lieutenant governor should step in
  • (the uprising) A Guide to the Recall of Governor Gavin Newsom

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