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California lawmakers plan reform of state’s chaotic recall system


California’s controversial recall system, which residents saw play out to the tune of nearly $ 300 million in taxpayer dollars on Tuesday night, needs major reform, lawmakers said on Wednesday.

A day after the recall election confirmed in a landslide that Gov. Gavin Newsom (R) would remain in office, the two lawmakers in charge of election-related matters announced their intention to hold hearings on the reform of the reminder with the aim of presenting a proposal on the matter to the legislative session of 2022.

“Now that the recall is complete, I think it’s time to reassess and update the California recall process,” said Sen. Steve Glazer (R), who chairs the Senate Committee on Elections and Nominations. constitutional amendments, in a press release. “Voters want to see a more democratic process put in place that holds elected officials to account, but prevents the political playing of the rules.”

Frustration around the recall system has escalated since April, when the Republicans’ effort to recall Newsom first qualified for the ballot, which posed voters two questions: do they want to recall Newsom? And if he is recalled, who among the more than 40 candidates in the running should replace him?

If more than 50% of voters answered yes to the first question, the one with the most votes on the second question would become the new leader of California.

Unlike an ordinary governor’s election, the winner would not need to win at least half of the votes to become governor. In other words, a recall candidate could win the election with a small fraction of the vote even if the governor facing a recall had more support from the voters.

“California law should not allow someone else to be removed and replaced by a candidate who receives far fewer votes,” Assembly Member Marc Berman, who chairs the Elections Committee, said on Wednesday. of the Assembly. “I look forward to hearing from a bipartisan panel of experts on how the California recall process should be reformed.”


Justin Sullivan via Getty Images

California Governor Gavin Newsom (R) addresses union workers and volunteers on Election Day at the IBEW Local 6 Union Hall, September 14, 2021, in San Francisco.

California has several models for a different recall system. In Wisconsin, voters are simply asked to choose someone from a list of candidates, which includes the current governor.

There’s also the issue of California’s relatively low barrier to getting a reminder on the ballot. Of the 19 states that allow recall of elected officials, California has one of the lowest signature thresholds needed to trigger a recall: 12% of the number of voters in the last gubernatorial election. Most other states require about double this percentage.

State Senator Josh Newman (D), who was successfully recalled in 2018 and then returned to his seat in 2020, said on Tuesday evening he plans to introduce legislation increase signature requirement and let the lieutenant governor complete the governor’s term in the event of dismissal.

Another idea of ​​reform that is circulating is to require some sort of malfeasance on the part of the public servant whom the petitioners seek to remove. Rhode Island, for its part, says that a person can only be recalled if they “have been charged or notified of a felony, convicted of a misdemeanor or against whom a finding of probable cause of violation. of the code of ethics was made by the ethics committee.

Because California’s revocation process is enshrined in the state’s constitution, any reforms that will be passed by the legislature will also have to go to voters – and getting them involved can take a long time to convince. A poll by the Institute for Governmental Studies at the University of California at Berkeley on Monday found that 75% of voters viewed the recall process “as a good thing.”

However, the poll showed majority support for some of the proposed reforms, including increasing the signing threshold and establishing a reason requirement for recalls.

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