Sen. Newman Introduces Recall Reform Measure Backed by CA Secretary of State and Key Voting Rights Advocates
Sacramento, Calif. — With the support of the California Secretary of State, California Common Cause, and the League of Women Voters of California, State Senator Josh Newman introduced a constitutional amendment today that, when approved by California voters, will ensure that future statewide and legislative recalls in California are democratic, objective and less susceptible to hyper-partisan gamesmanship.
Under the provisions of SCA 1, in the event that the recall of a state or legislative official qualifies for the ballot, voters would be asked simply to make a judgement on the fitness of the elected official in question. The second question, in which voters choose from among replacement candidates in the event that a majority support a recall, would be eliminated, and the process for replacement would follow the same steps as currently provided in other scenarios in which a state or legislative office is vacated.
“Sadly, like so many other aspects of elections and governance in America today, California’s recall process has been weaponized in ways never envisioned by its framers,” said Senator Josh Newman (D-Fullerton). “By eliminating the provision for the concurrent selection of a replacement in a recall vote on a statewide or legislative elected official, California’s recall process will be restored to its original purpose, as a just referendum on the probity and fitness of an elected official who has been deemed to have betrayed the public’s trust.”
California is one of 19 states with a constitutionally prescribed process for recalling legislators and constitutional officers but joins only Colorado in having a two-question ballot that allows for a plurality of voters to replace a recalled official. Currently, both states simultaneously ask voters to decide if an official should be recalled and, if so, who should replace a recalled official.
“We had 46 gubernatorial replacement candidates in the 2021 gubernatorial election. The short turnaround time for recall elections do not allow sufficient time for voters to both consider the recall question and vet a replacement out of an enormous field of candidates,” said Secretary of State Shirley N. Weber, Ph.D. “If voters decide to recall an elected official, this legislation will give voters more time to make an informed decision about their choice of a replacement.”
“Our statewide recall process has become a costly partisan tool used to subvert the will of the people. We can do better, and with SCA 1, we will do better,” said Assemblymember Isaac Bryan (D-Los Angeles), principal coauthor of SCA 1.
Polling during and after the 2021 recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom revealed Californians’ desire for fundamental changes to California’s recall process. A July 2021 PPIC poll indicated overall frustration with the recall process, with 69% of California voters viewing the attempt in 2021 to recall Governor Gavin Newsom as a waste of money. This sentiment was further validated by the rejection of the recall by voters with a margin virtually identical to Newsom’s original 2018 election. A subsequent March 2022 PPIC poll found that voters want the opportunity to vote to reform the recall process, with 59% saying they’d like to see such a proposition on the ballot.
“While the recall is an important democratic tool, too often California's state recall process does not inspire confidence in the integrity of our electoral system and does not ensure that decisions reflect the will of the people. This constitutional amendment will change that," said Jonathan Mehta Stein, Executive Director at California Common Cause, co-sponsor of SCA 1. "Additionally, this amendment strengthens our democracy by reducing the opportunity for bad actors to abuse the recall system and protects our institutional processes against anti-democratic minority rule.”
“California’s state recall election process is confusing to voters, susceptible to gamesmanship, and undermines the public’s faith in the political system,” said Carol Moon Goldberg, President of the League of Women Voters of California, co-sponsor of SCA 1. “SCA 1 will help improve the system both by separating the question of whether to recall an elected official from the question of who replaces that person, and by ensuring that successors are chosen in a fair and democratic manner.”
Under SCA 1, if a recall is successful, the official will be replaced in the manner consistent with existing law if the official were to leave office for any other reason. In the case of a successful gubernatorial recall in the first two years of the Governor’s term, the replacement election would be consolidated with the next statewide primary election and subsequent statewide general election. If the recall is successful in the last two years of the Governor’s term, the Lieutenant Governor would serve as Governor for the remainder of a recalled Governor’s term.
Joining as a principal coauthor for SCA 1 is Assemblymember Isaac Bryan, Chair of the Assembly Committee on Elections. Additional initial coauthors include Senators Tom Umberg, Caroline Menjivar, and Catherine Blakespear.
Changing the state Constitution requires a two-thirds vote in both houses of the Legislature and majority support by voters as a proposition on a statewide ballot. If passed by the Legislature, the matter would go to the voters in either the statewide primary or general elections in 2024.
In 2022, Senator Newman introduced a similar measure, SCA 6, which was ultimately held due to concerns about possible low turnout and competition with contentious and costly propositions in the recently held midterm elections.
To schedule an interview with Senator Newman, contact Lizzie Cootsona at 916.651.4029.
State Senator Josh Newman represents the 29th Senate District, which is comprised of portions of Los Angeles County, Orange County, and San Bernardino County. The 29th District includes all or parts of the cities of Anaheim, Brea, Buena Park, Chino Hills, City of Industry, Cypress, Diamond Bar, Fullerton, La Habra, La Palma, Placentia, Rowland Heights, Stanton, Walnut, West Covina and Yorba Linda. Senator Newman is a former United States Army officer, businessperson, and veterans’ advocate, and lives in Fullerton with his wife and daughter.