The recall process spelled out in the California constitution is problematic. The number of signatures required to trigger the election represented just 12% of the voters from the prior election. To get their name on the ballot, the 46 candidates each paid an approximately $4,000 filing fee in lieu of collecting 7,000 signatures as spelled out in the California secretary of state recall procedures.
It would be undemocratic in the extreme to imagine a scenario in which a slim majority of voters select “yes” and then choose a candidate who wins with less than 20% of the total vote. We could end up with a governor elected by less than 10% of all who cast a ballot. I for one want my state’s governor elected by and held accountable by a majority of voters, not a random person who cannot even get the full support of any of the major political parties.
The recall election has absolutely nothing to do with any issues of the governor’s performance and everything to do with the nationwide extremist power grab working to undermine confidence in the election process.
As with the storming of the Capitol by right-wing fanatics and voter suppression bills across the country from Texas and Arizona to Georgia and Florida, the objective is to sow doubt about independent election authorities as much as it is about depriving as many who are eligible their right to vote. The myth relentlessly promoted is that elections are rife with fraud. There is no room for voters, particularly voters of color, who seek to address accelerating wealth disparities.
We have a recall process that dates back to more than a century. The recall process came along with both the initiative and referendum processes, which were part of progressive era reforms that was a movement led here in California by then governor Hiram Johnson who was a staunch reformist. In the idea to keep elected officials more accountable, there was an error in the system they set in place, and now, more than 100 years later, our communities can suffer from systematic oversight. However, there are two immediate solutions our elected officials can take to make the recall process less archaic. One would be to hold a recall election and, in the event of a successful recall, the lieutenant governor would take the state’s top spot. The next solution would be to allow the elected official who was recalled to be allowed on the ballot as a selection. This would mitigate the issue of preventing the possibility of electing a person with less than 20% support into office.
All eligible voters will start receiving ballots in the mail any day now; the last day to vote is Sept. 14. Completed ballots can be mailed back postage paid or dropped off at any of the many official ballot drop off locations throughout the county.
The preservation of the election process is not a partisan issue. We need to preserve the voice of the people; we need to hold the people’s choice accountable; and we need to allow those officials to serve their constituents. The recall process was made to protect the people from criminals. It was not created to be a vehicle for sore losers. It was not created for a group of vocal minorities to manipulate the process.
Ultimately, this election is about preserving our democratic process and defending it from its systemic flaws put in place by people of privilege. We can all send a message to the governor and every other office holder by participating in free and fair elections and then staying actively engaged to hold those officeholders accountable. This is why I’m voting “no” on the recall, and urge all California voters to do the same.
David Pollack is a community organizer and running for San Mateo County assessor-county clerk-recorder and chief elections officer in the June 2022 election. He lives in San Carlos.