Another Gubernatorial Recall Election in California

Yes, it’s happening again.

California is very likely to conduct another gubernatorial recall election, most likely sometime in the late summer or early fall. As of media reports yesterday, sufficient signatures have been collected and submitted by those backing the current recall petition to put the recall of Governor Newsom on the ballot later this year.

While there is still some chance that the recall election may not happen (for example, if there is some legal or other administrative intervention, though the chances at this point of that occurring seem unlikely), there are a lot of unknowns still about how his recall election would be held.

For example, as election officials would need to start planning quite soon for this highly-likely recall election, would we see a repeat of statewide universal voting-by-mail for a 2021 recall election? While the pandemic seems to be receding currently in California, as other states are seeing surges in COVID-19 cases, there’s always a chance that California might see a surge.

And once the recall election date is set, and candidates start to file, how many people will file to be on the replacement ballot? Dozens of candidates? Hundreds of candidates? It’s impossible to know today how long the replacement ballot would be, but I’d not bet against there being a very long ballot of replacement candidates on a 2021 recall election ballot.

In any case, it seems like this recall election will happen. There was some excellent research conducted about the 2003 gubernatorial recall election, and now is a great time to dust those papers off and re-read them. I’ll start to post some thoughts about what we learned from that research soon.

I will make one prediction. The 2021 recall election, assuming it happens, will be a lot more tumultuous than pundits today are suggesting. There is likely to be a significant amount of litigation regarding the potential gubernatorial recall election, there will likely be a long ballot of replacement candidates, and the pandemic is likely to introduce complexity into the administration of a recall election.