Thursday, February 4, 2021

California: Timing of a potential gubernatorial recall -- and the signature-removal rules

One question I've been receiving has been about the timing of a potential  California Governor Gavin Newsom (D) recall.

Unfortunately, I did not look and misstated the law (here's the Secretary of State's handbook on it), though it actually may be close enough to the same timeframe. I cited the local recall law, which requires recalls to be scheduled to be held from 88-125 days after the validation. 

Fortunately, Liz Kreutz from KGO-TV pointed this out (after 10 years writing this blog, I can't say enough about how great local news reporters are). The Governor and other state-level officials have a more compressed timeframe of 60-80 days.  But, due to other parts of the law, it will take quite a bit longer than that. Additionally, a relatively new law gives Newsom a fighting tool to try and prevent the recall --  getting recall petition signers to remove their name. I'll discuss that below.  

The timeframe appears to be:

March 17 -- Petitions must all be handed in

April 29 -- counties have to verify signatures (this is 30 business days after the handed in deadline)

10 Days Later -- Secretary of State has 10 business days to determine that the signatures meet the requirement. One wrinkle is that you five counties to hand in at least 1% of voter turnout in their counties (so, for example, you couldn't just collect in Los Angeles and San Diego and get on the ballot). This is requirement is usually ignored in any explanation, as it will undoubtedly be met. 

30 Days Later -- Recall signers have 30 business days in which they can remove their names (see below for more details). 

10 Days Later -- County officials have to report in 10 business days how many signatures are struck.

30 Days Later -- The Secretary of State contacts the Department of Finance and estimates the cost of the recall, which gives them 30 days to review and comment

60-80 Days Later -- The recall must be scheduled in this timeframe by the Lieutenant Governor. In 2003, the recall was scheduled for the 76th day.

Unless: If there is a regularly scheduled statewide election, within 180 days of certification, they can join the recall with that event. However, there is no statewide election until June 2022.

One point I want to tackle is the removal of signatures. This law traces back to 2017, when there was a hope among Senate Democrats that they could ward off the Senator Josh Newman recall by allowing signers to remove their names. This did not help Newman, as the recall got on the ballot and Newman lost (only to comeback and win in 2020). 

However, it did help Newport Beach Councilman Scott Peotter in 2017. Beyond some other issues with the signatures, Peotter submitted 205 signature-withdrawal  requests (he actually handed in 1783 requests, it could be 1500 of those were people unsure of whether they signed). Those 205 requests were enough to get the recall off the ballot --  petitioners needed 8445 signatures and ended with 8339.

At least two other states have a signature removal (or signature revoking) law, Florida and Nevada (though Nevada's hasn't been fully decided by the State Supreme Court.  


  1. I think that November 2, 2021 is the most likely date for the election as some jurisdictions already have their elections scheduled that day under the UDEL (uniform district election law). It was a decent sized issue in 2003 where the recall election in October was scheduled one month before a normal district election in November, and a lot of people wondered why it couldn't be consolidated.

  2. Thanks for writing. Possible, though I think it depends on when everything else is completed. I don't think they could legally delay the recall under the consolidation provision if there are jurisdictions that do not have an election scheduled for ED (which I imagine is likely).


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.