Laws governing recall in California
|Recalls by state|
|Recalls by year|
|Recalls by type|
- 1 Signature requirements
- 2 Petition process
- 3 Recall election
- 4 History of California recall
- 5 Contact information
- 6 See also
- 7 External links
- 8 References
The authority to conduct a recall election in California applies to officials at the state and local levels; as with most states, the right of recall in California does not extend to recalling federal politicians. In California, citizens can recall judges of courts of appeal and trial courts.
- Main article: California signature requirements
For recall of state officials, proponents must file a notice-of-intent-to-recall petition signed by 65 voters in order to begin the petition drive process. For the actual petition, signatures must equal a percentage of the total number of votes most recently cast for the targeted office - 12% for executive officials and 20% for state legislators and judges. In addition, the petition must include signatures from each of at least five counties equal in number to 1% of the last vote for the office in that county.
The number of valid signatures required to put a local recall question on the ballot are determined by the following rules:
- For the officials of a city, county, school district, county board of education or any resident voting district, signatures from the following percentage of registered voters is required:
- 30% in jurisdictions with 0 - 1,000 registered voters
- 25% in jurisdictions with 1,000 - 10,000 registered voters
- 20% in jurisdictions with 10,000 - 50,000 registered voters
- 15% in jurisdictions with 50,000 - 100,000 registered voters
- 10% in jurisdictions with 100,000 or more registered voters
- County judges: For judges Section 14 of Article II of the California Constitution demands that the required recall petition signatures be equal to 20% of the votes cast for the judge in the last election, rather than a percentage of registered voters.
- In the case of a county superior court judge position that did not appear on the ballot at the last relevant election, signatures equaling 20% of votes cast for whichever countywide office received the least total number of votes in the most recent general election in the judge's county must be collected to qualify a recall of the judge for the ballot.
The University of California's Institute for Governmental Studies says this about the process:
The first step in a recall effort is the circulation of recall petitions. The process begins with the filing of a notice-of-intent-to-recall petition written in the proper legal language and signed by 65 voters. Once that is accomplished, the recall petition can be circulated in earnest. Petitions for the recall of statewide officers must be signed by voters equal in number to 12% of the last vote for that office, including voters from each of five counties equal in number to 1% of the last vote for the office in that county. Petitions for the recall of state legislators must equal in number to 20% of the last vote for the office.
The recall ballot has two components: a yes or no vote for recall, and the names of replacement candidates, selected by the nomination process used in regular elections. The recall measure itself is successful if it passes by a majority. In that case, the replacement candidate with a simple plurality of votes wins the office. If the recall measure fails, the replacement candidate votes are ignored.
The language in the recall provision is strictly procedural. Substantive grounds for recalls are not specified. Recalls can be launched to remove corrupt officials, and to remove officials whose policies and performance are found wanting. The recall is but one of several mechanisms for removing public officers. Others include the normal criminal process, impeachment, term limits, and, of course, the next election. 
—The University of California's Institute for Governmental Studies, 
Notice of intent
A minimum number of recall proponents is required to initiative a recall petition drive. This minimum number is 65 for state recall and the greater of 10 and the number of signatures required on the nomination paper of the officer against whom recall is sought for local recall. Petitioners for the recall of an official must submit a notice of intention to the city or district clerk for a local recall and to the California Secretary of State for a state recall. The notice must contains the following elements:
(a) The name and title of the officer sought to be recalled.
(b) A statement, not exceeding 200 words in length, of the reasons for the proposed recall.
(c) The printed name, signature, and residence address of each of the proponents of the recall. If a proponent cannot receive mail at the residence address, he or she must provide an alternative mailing address.
Delivery to the officer to be recalled:
This notice of intention must be delivered by the clerk or Secretary of State that received the notice of intent to the officer in question.
Publication of the notice of intent:
Proponents must, if possible, publish the notice of intent in a general circulation news paper. If no such news paper operates in the jurisdiction of the officer to be recalled, proponents must post the notice of intent in at least three public places.
Within seven days of being served with the notice of intent, the official against whom a recall is being attempted can officially file an answer to the recall proponents and a statement of defense against the recall attempt. The official answer can be no more than 200 words in length.
The reason given on the notice of intent and the officials answering statement must be included on the sample ballot for the election on which the recall will be featured and mailed to each registered voter in the relevant jurisdiction.
The Secretary of State must provide a petition format to proponents on request from the county elections department. Proponents must use the provided format to collect signatures.
Each signer must personally write in the following:
- His or her signatures
- His or her printed name
- His or her residence address
- Name of city or unincorporated community of residence
Each person who signs the petition must be a registered voter in the jurisdiction of the official against whom the recall attempt is being pursued. If the signer is not such a registered voter, his or her signature will not be counted.
A recall petition circulator must be a registered voter in the jurisdiction of the official against whom a recall is sought. Each petition form must contain a declaration signed by the circulator that he or she is such a registered voter.
Proponents must file all parts of a recall petition at the same time. If the petitions submitted to any given elections office contain less than 500 signatures, the elections officials must check each signature manually. If the petitions submitted contain more than 500 signatures, the elections officials may use a random sampling method.
If the petition signatures are found to be sufficient, the elections official must present his findings to the relevant governing body at its next regular meeting.
Filing a state recall petition
Each petition form for a state recall petition drive must be filed with the elections official of the county in which it was circulated. Each county elections office must verify the signatures that are submitted to it. County officials must report to the Secretary of State on the status of the signatures submitted every 30 days.
Filing a local recall petition
Once local recall petitions are submitted to the proper elections official, the relevant elections department has 30 business days to ascertain the sufficiency of the petitions, investigating the validity of the signatures and information affixed to the recall petitions.
The relevant governing body must call for an election within 14 days after the meeting at which the certificate of sufficiency for the recall petition was presented.
The election must be held between 88 and 125 days from the meeting in which the election was called for. If a regular or special election is already scheduled during this time period, the recall question must appear in the scheduled election. If no such election is already scheduled, a special election must be called for the recall vote.
The official against whom the recall is sought cannot submit himself or herself as a possible replacement candidate.
For a state recall, every candidate that wants to be considered to replace the official against whom the recall is sought must submit the standard nomination papers and a declaration of candidacy at least 59 days before the date of the recall election.
For a local recall, every candidate that wants to be considered to replace the official against whom the recall is sought must submit the standard nomination papers and the declaration of candidacy at least 75 days before the date of the recall election.
On the election ballot the following question must be asked voters:
Shall [name of officer sought to be recalled] be recalled (removed) from the office of [title of office]?
Additionally, the ballot will include, under the recall question, a list of candidates to take the place of official submitted for recall in the event of a successful recall vote. The list of candidates must include an empty space for voters to write in a candidate of their own.
If a majority of electors vote "yes" on the recall question, the official in question will be recalled from office. If a majority of electors vote "no," the official will remain in office. In the event of a successful recall, the replacement candidate who receives the most votes will serve the remainder of the recalled official's term. If no replacement candidate is nominated or qualifies for the position, the office will be vacant and filled according to the relevant laws governing vacancies.
History of California recall
Notable California recalls
- Main article: Gray Davis recall (2003)
Possibly the most famous recall election in history took place in California in October 2003, when Governor Gray Davis was recalled and Arnold Schwarzenegger took his place. The event was widely publicized in the national media due to both California's size and importance, as well as the fact that many famous celebrities, such as Arnold Schwarzenegger himself, were running to replace Gray Davis.
General Information - Elections Division
Secretary of State's Office
1500 11th Street, 5th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Phone: (916) 657-2166
Fax: (916) 653-3214
- Official Recall law in California (dead link)
- Wikipedia article on the 2003 recall of Gray Davis
- National Conference of State Legislatures, Statewide Recall
- California recall laws and history from Join California
- Review of California's recall laws from the Institute of Governmental Studies
- San Diego Reader, "How we can recall Todd Gloria," May 6, 2014, archived April 13, 2014
- Note: This text is quoted verbatim from the original source. Any inconsistencies are attributed to the original source.
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