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Another Newsom recall attempt is ramping up. Here’s a refresher on the California recall process.

Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to volunteers in San Francisco, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 ahead of the recall election.
Jeff Chiu

AP Photo
Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks to volunteers in San Francisco, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021 ahead of the recall election.

Republican critics of Governor Gavin Newsom are once again trying to recall him from office.

The group, Rescue California, said they planned to serve Newsom with a “notice of intention to recall” on Monday, the official first step to attempt to remove a public official from office.

It’s the same group that was behind a 2021 recall election against the governor, during which62% of voters opted to keep Newsom in office.

This time, recall proponents are attacking the governor for focusing on national issues instead of problems at home. Their new attempt comes as Newsom becomes astronger surrogate for President Joe Biden andgoes after red-state attempts to crack down on reproductive and voting rights.

“Gavin Newsom has abandoned the state to advance his presidential ambitions, leaving behind a $73 Billion budget deficit and a public safety, immigration and education crisis,” Rescue California campaign director Anne Dunsmore said in a statement. “California needs a full-time governor who is fully focused on the serious problems the state and its citizens are facing.”

Newsom has pledged to fight the recall, calling it “wasteful” and a distraction.

There have been multiple recent attempts to recall elected officials in California, but few actually make it to the ballot. Here's what needs to happen before a recall can go before voters.

How to qualify a recall

The preliminary steps necessary to force a recall election include:

  • Prepare and serve “notice of intention,” or paperwork legally notifying the elected official of an attempt to recall them. It must also be published in a newspaper with general circulation in the jurisdiction of the person being recalled.
  • Wait for officials’ response: Within seven days of receiving the notice, the subject of the recall may submit a 200-word response. 
  • Prepare and circulate signature petitions: This is the determining factor of whether a recall will go before voters. To recall a statewide official, proponents have 160 days to collect signatures equal to 12% of total votes cast during the last election for that office. That means to recall Newsom, Rescue California’s campaign needs just over 1.3 million valid signatures from registered California voters. (There were 10.9 million votes for governor cast in the 2022 election.) 
  • Signature verification and setting an election: County elections officials must verify the submitted signatures and report them to the Secretary of State. If the signature threshold is reached, the Secretary of State will certify the signatures and an election will be set for 60-80 days later. If there is another election already scheduled within 180 days, the recall will be consolidated with that election.

How common are recalls in California?

There have been many attempts to recall elected officials over the years but few actually make it to the ballot.

According to the Secretary of State’s office, since 1913, there have been 180 attempts to recall state officials, including state legislators. Of those, only 11 have qualified for the ballot and six of those have resulted in successful recalls.

It takes an enormous amount of money and political organizing to gather the required amount of signatures in under six months. The 2021 recall against Newsom only qualified for the ballot after a judge granted the campaign an additional four months to collect signatures.

The latest recall attempt will be the sixth to remove Newsom since he took office as governor in 2019.

Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly identified the additional amount of time a judge granted the 2021 recall campaign. It has since been updated.

Nicole covers politics and government for CapRadio. Before moving to California, she won several awards, including a regional Edward R. Murrow Award, for her political reporting in her hometown of Salt Lake City. Besides public radio, Nicole is passionate about beautiful landscapes and breakfast burritos.
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