News/Op-Ed: The Process Of California’s Governor Recall Elections Policy

by Joseph Theisen

After recent news of a potential recall election of Governor Gavin Newson, many people are left wondering how successful and how common is the process of recalling a governor in the state of California.

Recall Gavin Newsom petition gains signatures: Map shows where in  California there's most support - ABC7 San Francisco

Although different states have different criteria on when a recall is allowed, there are only 18 states that allow citizens to recall their governors, including Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, Washington, and Wisconsin.  In California, laws to recall a governor are extremely lenient, meaning that they are subject to be recalled at any time, for even a small inconvenience. 

In addition, California has one of the lowest percent rates of population accepted on a petition.  Just twelve percent of the population has to sign a petition to start a recall election.  If this number is reached, and signatures are validated, a recall election happens. Meaning that anyone can run for governor once re-election occurs, as Arnold Schwarzenegger famously did successfully in 2003, after Governor Gray Davis was recalled in the midst of his term. If the opponent gets more votes than the current governor in the recall election, the incumbent governor will be replaced.

A petition created in February 2020 has reached about 2 million signatures of the 1,495,709 signatures needed for the recall process of Governor Newsom to begin. These signatures have to be verified, which will happen at the end of the month, and if the required amount of signatures are validated, a recall election will be set into motion.

According to Probolsky Research, 46.7 percent said they would vote no if casting a ballot today on Newsom being recalled from office, compared to 40 percent who said they would vote yes.  If these numbers hold up, Newsom will not be recalled. This is a common trend among all polls, although percentages are different, the outcome stays the same.

Although the signatures can be verified at the end of this month, the earliest the recall election would happen would be around early November, since the state of California gives its citizens the option to withdraw their signatures on the ballot for a short period of time.  If many people withdraw their signatures, and the number becomes lower than the required amount, the recall election will be cancelled. Newsom’s term is set to end in November of 2022, which means that if the recall is successful, Newsom would be the second governor to be recalled in the last 18 years.

If the recall is successful, the panel for potential governors is composed of mostly Republican candidates, which makes sense, considering that Governor Newsom is a Democrat. The idea behind, that the Democratic party does not want to select any candidates that would possibly split the vote between Newsom and the another candidate, causing Democrats to give up the spot. Results on whether or not there will be an election should be clear at the end of the month.

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