This model has some California Democrats now talking openly about making fundamental changes to recall law – an idea rarely discussed since Gov. Hiram Johnson, a progressive icon, pushed it through the legislature in 1911. “This thing is going to be defeated by Newsom enough,” said Democratic strategist Garry South, who was Davis’ chief adviser during his two gubernatorial races, in 1998 and 2002. “And when this is all over, the lawmaker must seriously consider reorganizing processes and procedures. for qualifying a recall against the governor of California. “
VSCalifornia law establishes a two-step process to remove and replace an executive officer. Once supporters have collected enough signatures, the state schedules an election that asks voters two questions. First, they are invited to vote for or against the recall of the targeted official, in this case Newsom. Then, on the same ballot, they are asked to choose from a list of candidates who have filed to replace the official. (The incumbent’s name cannot be listed as an option.) If a majority votes no on the recall, it’s over; the incumbent remains in office. But if a majority supports the recall, the incumbent candidate is replaced by the alternative candidate who obtains the highest total of votes, even if it is lower than the majority (which is possible, given the size of the field of candidates ).
These rules create one of the first glaring anomalies in the California system: an incumbent could be removed from office and replaced even if a greater proportion of Californians vote to keep him in power than to support a single alternative. (For example, an incumbent might receive the support of 49.9% of the voters, but be ousted and replaced by someone who received a much smaller share of the vote.)
An even more important anomaly is the threshold that a recall effort must meet to qualify for the ballot. Nineteen states allow voters to dismiss a governor, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Of these states, California requires “the lowest [signature] total recall any state governor in the country, ”says Joshua Spivak, expert on the recall process and senior researcher at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College in New York City. A recall can qualify for the ballot in California by collecting signatures equivalent to 12 percent of the votes cast in the previous gubernatorial election. Most states set a significantly higher bar, typically 25%.
In 2018, just under 12.5 million Californians voted in the gubernatorial election, in which Newsom overwhelmed Republican John Cox by almost exactly 3 million votes. That meant the promoters of the recall had to collect just under 1.5 million signatures. In absolute terms, that’s a lot of signatures to get. Newsom’s critics launched four recall attempts before that, and not all of them met the requirement. Even the current recall, launched by conservatives exasperated by Newsom’s COVID-19 closures last spring, appeared to hit a wall in the fall. Then two important events happened on November 6: first, James Arguelles, a state superior court judge appointed by Schwarzenegger, gave the promoters an unprecedented four-month extension to collect signatures, citing the difficulties created by the coronavirus. And on the same day, Newsom chose to attend a now infamous birthday party for a lobbyist at a posh Napa Valley restaurant – a choice that has become a flashpoint for voters’ frustration. Newsom’s presence while much of California remained closed “has become a pop culture caricature of what everyone hates about politicians,” says Republican consultant Rob Stutzman, who served as director of communications for Schwarzenegger during Davis’ recall and when Schwarzenegger was governor. “There was everything: there was elitism, there was hypocrisy, it smelled like pay-to-play.