After a couple long months of gathering signatures, promoting authoritative change, and facilitating the recall election itself, Democratic candidate Gavin Newsom was allowed by the citizens of California to maintain his position as Governor. Sep. 14, 2021 marks the date that millions of Californians put their pen to paper to decide if their current leader was truly the best fit for the state, or if the majority had made a mistake by electing him back in 2018 to take office in 2019.
Frustrated by the safety measures Newsom put in place amid the COVID-19 pandemic and the hypocrisy he displayed by promoting such precautions while not fully adhering to them himself, a group of Californians brought up the idea of a recall election. The results of said election left the California state government in the same conformity as it was in before, with 63.9 percent of voters, or about 5.8 million citizens, checking the “no” box when asked if Newsom should be recalled compared to the 36.1 percent, or 3.3 million, who marked the alternative option, according to CNBC.
“‘No’ is not the only thing that was expressed tonight,” Newsom said. “We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud or voter suppression. We said yes to women’s fundamental, constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body and her fate and future.”
While Newsom was only the second California governor to face a recall election, he is not the first to experience such distrust among the citizens within his state. Since its implementation in 1911, the right to recall has been exercised 179 times. According to the New York Times, every California governor since 1960 has faced a recall attempt against them at least once. Only Newsom and former Governor Joseph “Gray” Davis who held office from 1999 to 2003, however, have had first-hand experience with a recall taken all the way to the ballot. The reason only two of the 179 recall efforts have been taken to its full extent is likely because of the considerable amount of time, money, and effort that is required to facilitate such an ordeal.
According to NPR, to fully execute a recall, the supporters of such an effort must first report the situation to the California secretary of state. Step two requires the leaders of the endeavor to gather the amount of signatures equal to 12 percent of the population that voted in the initial election. In this case, about 12.5 million Californians participated in the 2018 election, therefore exactly 1,495,709 signatures were required to move this recall to the next stage. The opponents of the presiding government official are usually given five months to collect their signatures. A chaotic year, however, encouraged an alteration to the traditional practices. Those leading this specific recall effort were given an extra four months to complete this task as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
After the signatures have been verified by the California secretary of state, the situation is examined to determine a set cost for the election. According to the New York Times, state budget officials estimated that this recall attempt would cost the state roughly $276 million.
The next step is creating the official ballot. Candidates must be U.S. citizens who are registered voters and have not been convicted of specific felonies. Those hoping to get their name on the ballot are given 59 days to pay the filing fee of $4,000 or collect and submit a list of 7,000 signatures.
The last step in the recall process is the actual vote. Due to the ongoing pandemic, every eligible California voter was mailed a ballot to be submitted by Sep. 14. Alternatively, citizens could find a nearby polling station to cast their vote. The official ballot only has two questions, asking whether or not the Governor should be recalled, and if so, by whom. The current official must receive more than 50 percent of the votes to remain in office. If the majority of citizens vote in favor of the recall, the candidate who receives the greatest portion of the pro-recall votes will become the new Governor. For example, if the reigning leader only receives 40 percent of the vote, whichever candidate earned the majority of the remaining 60 percent would take the election. Because there are so many names on the ballot, 46 in this specific case, if Newsom had earned less than half of the vote, the elected candidate could win with a very low percentage as long as it is greater than that of any other recall contender.
Even with all the extensive measures that must be taken in order for a recall election to even take place, the opponents of Newsom were ultimately unsuccessful in unseating the current Governor. The 2023 election, however, is not far out, offering Newsom’s opponents another opportunity to put their own candidate in office.