An ongoing campaign to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom claims to have collected over 1.2 million petition signatures in support of the recall effort, according to the Recall Gavin 2020 website.
In California, voters can recall state and local officials before the next election cycle. The process requires the proponents of the recall to file and publish a notice of intention, organize and circulate a petition, and receive a number of signatures that total at least 12% of the previous number of votes for the office in question, according to the California Secretary of State website.
The proponents must file the petition by a set deadline, and the state must then ensure the signatures are valid, meaning that they belong to registered voters in the state. If enough signatures are determined to be valid, a recall election will occur, during which voters will choose whether or not to recall the official, and, if so, who the successor will be.
“We are a democratic society, so it gives the people an option if they feel an elected official is not exercising the will of the people,” said Dr. Tanya Harris, adjunct professor of public administration. “It gives them a voice if individuals feel (the officials) are not keeping up with representing the people who they are sworn to protect and defend.”
The recall effort against Newsom began on June 10, and the proponents received an extension to March 17 to accumulate signatures due to the pandemic. For a recall election to take place, the recall campaign will need to collect 1,495,709 valid signatures, according to Ballotpedia.
“It is part of democracy,” said Kyle Swartz, freshman business administration major. “If you can vote them in, you can vote them out. It is to prevent one person from gaining (too much) power with checks and balances.”
The Recall Gavin 2020 website lists reasons for the recall effort, including accusations of executive overreach, continuing shutdowns that harm small businesses, high homeless rates and a failure to follow rules put in place to curb the pandemic.
However, in June, Newsom released a statement in response to the effort claiming that the movement will cost taxpayers unnecessarily and that it is led by people who do not align with California’s values, according to Ballotpedia.
“I see the purpose of recalling officials as a last resort way of citizens showing their disdain over those elected in power that oversee the actions enacted upon their community,” said Leonardo Acosta, freshman mechanical engineering major. “It is in place so if things ever went severely wrong, there could be a civil way to displace someone. People in power should listen to outcry and respond in a sort of way that acknowledges there is outcry.”
Harris said that recall efforts can have positive effects in that they give people a voice, stress certain concerns and lead to more transparency. However, she said they may have negative aspects because they can stem from partisan divisions and only represent the beliefs of a portion of the electorate.
“Sometimes it comes down to partisan support,” Harris said. “If you have a lot of people with a governor who does not have the same message as someone they align with, then they feel they want to get him out of office. I think that is one of the issues, and that is why it goes to vote. One of the pros is that it can highlight some issues. What you would hope to get out of it is to bring people together. You understand the other side and try to work with them collaboratively.”
The only campaign that succeeded in recalling a California governor removed Gov. Gray Davis in 2003.