Opinions

The Status of the California Recall Effort

By Yuto K. ’23

You may have heard on the news that there will be a gubernatorial recall election in California probably sometime in November of this year, as a recall petition against Governor Gavin Newsom has gained astounding traction, with the requisite signatures (around 1.495 million) to qualify for the ballot. 

Recall petitions and efforts are not that uncommon as every governor since the 1960s has faced petitions. However, they usually don’t garner national attention nor get the signatures necessary to trigger an actual recall election. This is the first recall effort that has led to an actual vote on the ballot since Gray Davis was replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2003. In fact, in Governor Newsom’s term, he has already faced six recall petitions that were unsuccessful to qualify.

So why was this petition able to garner so much attention compared to the other petitions? This is likely due to Governor Newsom’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many people were pleased with Governor Newsom’s handling of the pandemic, there were also critics claiming that he was too slow in reopening. The criticism increased when he was seen attending a party at the French Laundry restaurant which was seen as hypocritical by many Californians and led to a surge in the recall effort. 

The system for the recall election can be a little confusing and unclear. Governor Newsom is not able to run as a replacement candidate for the election. However, there will be a question on the ballot that asks voters if they want to recall Governor Newsom. If more than fifty percent of the voters vote no, then Governor Newsom stays in office. If more than fifty percent of the voters vote yes, then Newsom will be recalled and there will be a new governor for California. 

So who has announced that they will be running in the recall election? As we have learned over the past few years, literally almost anyone can run for office. Some notable candidates running in the recall election are John Cox, who was the Republican nominee in the 2018 election and lost to Newsom, and Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic gold medalist and transgender rights activist. 

Although this recall petition has progressed farther than most other recall petitions, it still has a ways to go before it turns into a genuine recall. First, the recall petition is not yet official, as the signatures are being counted and can still be withdrawn. Second, according to current polling and data (although we have seen through the past few years that polling cannot be trusted), more Californians are leaning towards voting no on the recall rather than yes. A poll recently conducted by UC Berkeley showed that 49% of citizens would vote no, 36% of citizens would vote yes, and 15% were still undecided at this moment with a 2.0% margin of error for the poll. A poll conducted by the Public Policy Institute of California showed that 56% of citizens would vote no, 40% would vote yes, and 5% were undecided with a margin of error of 3.9%. Finally, a poll conducted by SurveyUSA showed that 47% of voters would vote no, 36% of voters would vote yes and 17% were still undecided.

Personally, I feel like this recall effort is a waste of time and money. I think it is important to hold our public leaders accountable, but this recall effort has been very partisan, fueled by extremists, and will cause even more divide. Millions of dollars will likely be poured into this effort from both sides and will just prevent California from solving the problems that are more urgent and necessary. 

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