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The Quill

California Recall Election

Previously Published Oct 5, 2021

Previously Published Oct 5, 2021

Even before the Covid-19 pandemic, California governor Gavin Newsom was already the subject of a recall petition. The petition stated that Newsom worsened the immigration crisis and had done nothing about the various problems in California, such as the high taxes, high homelessness rates, and low quality of life.

Ever since the outset of Covid-19 preventative measures in California, Newsom had been under even greater criticism for his actions during the pandemic. Many people in California believed that the measures were excessive and that the cons outweighed the pros. This criticism heightened when Newsom was seen subverting his own guidelines by celebrating the birthday of a lobbyist without wearing masks at The French Laundry, a high-class restaurant in Napa Valley. Due to the backlash, a total of 1.6 million Californians signed the petition, resulting in the organization of a recall election. 

Among those who sought to replace governor Newsom in the recall election, there were four frontrunners –  Larry Elder, Kevin Paffrath, Kevin Faulconer, and John Cox – of which Elder was deemed the most qualified and popular. 

The election, which took place on September 14, 2021, declared that governor Newsom would not be recalled by a 25 percent margin. In the second question, which asked which candidate would replace Newsom if he were to be recalled, Larry Elder won. Among the different counties, several trends could be discovered. Not surprisingly, counties that predominately voted for Biden for US President also voted mostly for no recall. Counties with less Caucasian populations also tended to vote more for no recall. Lastly, more affluent counties were more likely to vote for no recall than poorer counties, when ranked by median income.

Overall, the costly $276 million recall called into question the merits of such a low bar for recall elections. Many have stated that a twelve percent bar for signatories on the recall petition gives too much power to a partisan minority. Another potential issue with the California recall system is the potential for a candidate with only a plurality (less than 50%) of support to take office, which some argue makes California recall law too susceptible to abuse by a vocal minority.

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