This coming fall we will be engaging in an activity that is quite unique to California: a recall election by a minority group of disgruntled voters who want to remove Governor Gavin Newsom from office.
How are they able to do this and how common is this practice?
The Recall is actually part of the California Constitution added in 1911 ( Article 2). There have been 179 recall attempts of state elected officials, only 10 of which collected enough signatures to qualify, and only 6 of those officials who have been removed from office.
Who are these disgruntled voters? Many of them come from the beach cities of Orange County and their grievances with the Governor, particularly over his handling of the pandemic, have been chronicled by local news sources.
How has the minority party (Democrats outnumber Republicans in California by 2 to 1) been able to pull this off? Although the Republican Party is as weak as it has ever been in California, by using what one Op-Ed columnist described as the “ridiculous recall” process added to the California Constitution during a period when voters were flirting with direct democracy, they have come up with enough signatures to qualify for an election.
If the Recall succeeds in removing Newsom from office, it will be legal but hardly democratic or advantageous to the residents of California.
This is why:
- It will cost California taxpayers $100 to $400 million dollars, hardly wise spending during a pandemic. Also, it stands a very strong chance of going down in defeat.
- There will be a regularly scheduled election in 2022 shortly after the Recall election. 3. Anyone who has the filing fee of $4,000 or 7000 signatures can run for office. In the Gray Davis recall, there were 135 replacement candidates on the ballot.
- Unlike most of the approximately 12 states which allow a recall, California requires that no specific criteria be met such as conviction of a crime or incompetence to recall a state official.
- On the second part of the recall ballot, where voters select a candidate, the person elected can win with as little as 25 percent of the vote.
There are processes to follow which can modify or eliminate the Recall. According to the California Constitution, it can be changed by either a two-thirds vote in California State legislatures, or signatures equal to 8 percent of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election.
In 2020 two amendments were added to the California Constitution which established a process for initiating constitutional amendments. This can happen through citizen initiatives, legislatively referred constitutional amendments or constitutional conventions. I would say that we need to start the conversation soon about altering or doing away with a process which allows a minority to rule over the majority.
For instance, to improve the Recall, a higher threshold for the number of signatures required to qualify the Recall, a higher fee for would be candidates, and stronger timing requirements should be added.
Finally, there should be a strong reason, other than political, to begin the recall petition. There are those among us who not only strongly support Newsom, but also dislike the fact that other states must have little respect for California for legally allowing this carnivalesque election to take place.
Lynn Lorenz / Newport Beach