This September, California is having its second gubernatorial recall election in history. In 2003, Gray Davis was the first governor successfully recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
KSBY took an in-depth look at how a recall election works. A local professor says it is a strange, lengthy and costly process.
"We don't want to just have a coin toss determining who our next governor is. and that's basically what we're doing." Cal Poly political science professor, Michael Latner says the rules of a California recall are unlike an ordinary election.
Organizers who disapprove of Governor Gavin Newsom's handling of issues, including the pandemic, initiated a petition to recall him in February 2020. By March 17, 2021 -- the official deadline for signatures -- they collected more than 2 million.
"Signatures are pretty low in order to get access to the ballot in California. The idea is there that you wanna have the process be open and let the voters decide," says Latner.
The Secretary of State verified more than 1.7 million signatures -- beyond the nearly 1.5 million needed to get the recall measure on the ballot.
A closer look at the numbers shows 25,653 signatures came from San Luis Obispo County and 16,487 from Santa Barbara County.
The Secretary of State's final report in June shows only 43 people withdrew their signatures.
Newsom signed a bill that passed both houses of state legislature -- waiving the 30-day period to review the estimated costs for a special recall election as long as lawmakers set aside money to pay for it.
"It costs the state millions of dollars to have a recall." How much? According to the California Department of Finance, the recall costs about $276 million of your tax dollars.
On July 1, the Lieutenant Governor announced voters will decide whether to keep or recall Newsom on September 14, 2021.
WHAT'S ON THE BALLOT
Once voters finally get to see the ballot, Latner says that's where the recall rules get tricky. "Here's where things get really strange where California demonstrates it has one of the worst recall systems if you're going to have one. There are two votes that each voter is going to have. one is a yes or no on the recall. and then the other vote is who to vote for if the governor is recalled... The seating governor is not allowed to be on the recall (candidate)n list."
Under California law, incumbents can't run to replace themselves. It gets even more strange -- the outcome doesn't always reflect the will of the majority. If more than 50% of voters said yes to the recalling the current governor, the win goes to one of the candidates running to replace him with the most votes.
"Let's say it's a close recall and Newsom is recalled by 52% (yes) to 48% (no) or something like that, you could easily have the person that ends up getting the most votes get 30-35% of votes and they become the next governor even though more people wanted to keep Newsom."
Dozens have already announced or filed initial paperwork to run for governor, including Caitlyn Jenner, former San Diego Mayor, Kevin Faulconer and businessman John Cox. The list also includes a pastor, a police officer turned broker and an adult film star.
In the 2003 recall, there were more than 130 candidates.
"It's very easy to become a nominee. we have a very weak party structure so there's going to be many independents."
If Newsom is recalled, the Secretary of State certifies the election and the new governor will take the oath of office within 28 days. Whether or not that will happen, we'll find out in September.
For now, it's all about the money. Unlike a regular election, Newsom and groups supporting the recall can raise an unlimited amount of cash.
Here's a look at the top contributors supporting the recall. You may recognize some familiar names including Orange County entrepreneur John Kruger (Prov. 3:9 LLC) and L.A. developer and Donald Trump megadonor, Geoff Palmer.
Newsom's top financial backers are made up of people or companies such as Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and the California Association of Realtors.
Big money for both sides comes from wealthy enclaves, committees and influential unions.