California’s costly, confusing recall ignites reform efforts

The rules governing California’s recall elections will be subject to new scrutiny and possible changes, as two state legislators said Wednesday that the effort to impeach Governor Gavin Newsom was too costly and needlessly confusing.

Although election results were incomplete after Tuesday’s contest, supporters of the recall found its efforts insufficient by the millions of votes. Newsom easily won enough support to complete the final year of his term.. California lawmakers agreed to spend at least $276 million on the latest state budget to cover recall costs, but some election officials estimate the final bounce will be closer to $300 million.

“This money could be spent on shelter, homelessness, fighting climate change, wildfires, early childhood education,” said Councilor Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), chair of the House Elections Committee. “There is a lot of desire and need to reform the recall process.”

Voters were given the power to impeach an elected official before their term expired, by an amendment to the California Constitution in 1911. In the years that followed, only a minor change was made to the recall process. While most recall efforts failed to get on the ballot, similar concerns were raised about the rules in 2003 when it was the then government. Gray Davis, a Democrat, was dismissed in favor of Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Berman and his state Senate selection committee counterpart, Senator Steve Glazer (D-Orinda), said Wednesday they plan to launch a bipartisan effort early next year to review the current procedures governing statewide recalls and a set of ideas for reform. process presented in recent weeks by academics and constitutional experts. Any significant changes will need to be approved by California voters in the statewide primary or general election next year.

“Voters want a more democratic process to be put in place that keeps elected officials accountable and prevents political play on the rules,” Glazer said at a news conference Wednesday.

Others have called for a comprehensive review of recall elections. Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin), whose recall nomination won nearly 160,000 votes Wednesday, urged Democrat lawmakers to scrutinize campaign finance laws and posted the incumbent’s “strangeness of unlimited campaign contributions” on Twitter. He allowed Newsom to bombard the TV broadcasts with TV commercials.

On Monday, a survey conducted by UC Berkeley’s Institute for Government Studies and co-sponsored by The Times found The majority of voters surveyed said they supported several options for reviewing recall rules. Of the five proposed options, the largest majority of voters polled said they would support a second election if a governor or statewide official was recalled and no substitute candidate won a majority of the votes cast.

“The biggest issue for me is we have a process right now where a governor can be recalled and replaced with someone who gets less votes than the governor gets,” Berman said. “This is the big fundamental piece I want to see changed.”

Among other potential changes mentioned in the Berkeley IGS survey, a higher threshold for candidates wishing to run in the reserve election and a greater number of voter signatures were required to trigger a recall.

The poll, conducted in the first week of September, also found widespread disappointment about the price tag of an independent statewide election. Sixty-one percent of prospective voters said they thought Newsom’s recall was a “waste of taxpayer money,” the strongest response of the statements in the poll designed to gauge how voters felt about the election.

Democrat lawmakers were asked if their upcoming session would include a discussion of how election administration rules were written and rewritten that affected the timing of recall elections. Democrats forced a change in 2017 to slow the recall timeline, in hopes of helping state Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton) avoid impeachment. The effort did not save Newman, Who was removed in 2018 but then he took back his Senate seat last year.

This summer, Democratic legislative leaders amended the 2017 statute, speeding up the recall process once again in hopes of improving COVID-19 conditions that could fuel Newsom’s attempt to fend off elections defended by Republican critics.

“I would say everything is reviewable,” Glazer said of the proposed partisan-led changes to the electoral law. I think that’s part of what we want to achieve here, a more thorough investigation.”

Leave a Comment