How do California governor recalls work?

"I think this recall effort is very serious."

LOS ANGELES - That’s the assessment of Loyola Law School Professor Jessica Levinson about the recall effort being mounted against Governor Gavin Newsom.

She says, "It really is a story in how quickly political fortunes can rise and fall in California."

Once all of the recall petitions that have been circulating are certified, the process can begin. The number needed for certification is 12% of the number of voters in the last election or about 1.5 million signatures.

Dan Walter is a columnist for He believes that "They’re going to try for two million" to have more than enough in case there are signatures thrown out for various legitimate reasons.

Of the recall proponents, he says, "Their chances are 50-50 and pretty good they’re going to make the ballot."

USC professor Dan Schur is a Political Communications Professor at the Annenberg School and UC Berkeley. He says there are deadlines.

He says, "They have until the middle of March to get over the threshold and if they have collected anywhere near what they claim to have they should be able to hit that goal by next March without much trouble at all."

Once petitions are certified and candidates have been announced ballots would be printed.

The ballot would have two questions.

  • Should Gavin Newsom be recalled? YES or NO
  • If more than 50% of voters say "YES" who should replace him?                                                                                                                       

And, it might not just be two people to choose from as you have right now that would like the job. One is San Diego Republican Mayor Kevin Faulkner and John Cox (R), who ran against Gov. Newsom in the last election. 

Walter says in the 2003 Gray Davis recall, "135 candidates were on the ballot."

One hundred and thirty-five candidates, Including then-Democratic Lt. Gov Cruz Bustamante. So, it could be people from all walks of life much like in 2003, then-actor Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The cost of a recall, it could be pricey given the printing of the ballots, setting up polling and drop off ballot points, all the county registrar offices will have to reinforce their infrastructure and more.

The 2003 Gray Davis recall wasn’t cheap! Jessica Levinson says, "that recall election almost 20 years ago now cost the taxpayers $40 million."

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