California Democrats Look To End Recall Sideshow With Earlier Vote

Lawmakers cut out some red tape, but only when it serves the party.


How confident are California Democrats that Gov. Gavin Newsom will survive an upcoming recall vote? They're speeding up the process so that there's less time before the vote and—accordingly—less time for his opponents to make their case.

On Monday, Democratic state lawmakers passed a bill—which Newsom quickly signed—that will allow the state to bypass one of the steps of the recall process and shave as much as 30 days off the time it takes to arrange the election.

Part of the complex process to put a recall vote on the ballot in California involves having the Department of Finance put together a cost estimate for the recall to be reviewed by a legislative budget committee within 30 days. This has to be done before the recall can be certified and scheduled. This new bill, S.B. 152, will allow this step to be bypassed if lawmakers have already appropriated the funds for the recall.

Counties have estimated the recall election will cost about $215 million, and lawmakers have already agreed to cover it. This faster timeline could have voters deciding whether to recall Newsom in September rather than in late October or November.

Why is it such a complicated process to get a recall election on the ballot even after the signatures are verified? After all, lawmakers can't look at these costs and then decide they're not willing to pay for recall. That's just not an option.

Comically, it turns out Democratic lawmakers are themselves responsible for the red tape they're now trying to eliminate. Four years ago, Democratic lawmakers added this step to slow down a recall effort. They hoped that this would protect State Sen. Josh Newman (D–Fullerton) from being recalled in 2018. It failed: Newman was recalled anyway and replaced by Republican Ling Ling Chang. Then Newman was voted back into office in 2020.

Right now, Newsom seems well-positioned to hold off the recall effort. He's giving out cash prizes to convince people to get vaccinated, the state's economy is humming along, people are optimistic about the future, and 57 percent of voters say they aren't likely to recall him, based on a May poll by the Public Policy Institute of California.

Meanwhile, Ballotpedia counts 68 people who have thus far announced their intent to run as replacements for Newsom should he be recalled. In all likelihood, many of these people won't actually file, and many of them are just looking for attention.

As for the Democratic maneuvering, it's terrible that one political party is manipulating the electoral process in whichever way they think will best protect their incumbents. But in this particular case, it's more objectionable that Democrats added red tape in the first place. Making the recall process more efficient should be a good thing. Unfortunately, in this case, it's an indicator that the election process is prone to manipulation by a single dominant party for the purpose of maintaining power.