How successful are California recall elections?


(NewsNation) — California’s recall elections are getting a lot of attention ahead of Tuesday’s primaries, but in reality, only about .03% of all recall attempts are successful.

In a closely watched election, San Francisco voters are considering whether to recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin, a progressive Democrat who critics say has failed to prosecute repeat offenders, amid widespread frustration with crime and homelessness.

The recall is among a handful of June 7 contests that could shape the criminal justice reform agenda in the country’s most populous and Democratic state. They include races for district attorney in multiple San Francisco Bay Area counties and two in Southern California, Ludovic Blain, director of the progressive California Donor Table, told the Associated Press.

The process to get to a recall election is often drawn out. First, recall organizers must bring a petition for recall to the California secretary of state. Once the organizers submit signatures to election officials, they will then work to verify the authenticity of the signatures. The monthslong review by election officials will determine if — and when — the election will get on the ballot. If the certified signatures exceed the minimum threshold, then a recall election is triggered.

Voters are now being asked two questions: Should the official be recalled, yes or no, and, if they are ousted, who should replace them? The results of the second question are irrelevant if a majority of voters support retaining the official.

Since 1913, there have been 179 recall attempts of state elected officials in California — more than any other state. 11 recall efforts collected enough signatures to qualify for the ballot. But the bar for getting a recall on the ballot in California is lower than other states.

Successful recall elections are so rare in part because they require both organization and money. One campaign pushing for Boudin to be removed from office spent nearly $4 million by late May.

Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón is also facing a potential recall effort. Organizers have until July 6 to gather enough signatures.

Gov. Gavin Newsom previously faced a recall election last year amid backlash over his handling of the coronavirus pandemic. Newsom survived the recall attempt and is expected to cruise to victory in the gubernatorial primary. The recall election attracted dozens of candidates, including conservative talk radio host Larry Elder and former Olympic decathlon champion-turned reality TV star Caitlyn Jenner.

He was the fourth governor in U.S. history and the second in California to face a recall. Californians removed Democratic Gov. Gray Davis in 2003 and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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