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California State Capitol. (Photo: Kevin Sanders for California Globe)

Emergency Elections in California Cities

The petition to be signed by at least 75 persons in the city

By Chris Micheli, February 12, 2022 7:34 am

California law provides procedures for “emergency elections” conducted in cities in this state. These rules and procedures are contained in Division 10, Part 2, Chapter 3, which was enacted in 1994. Section 10300 states that the voters of a city may present a petition to the Governor for the appointment of three commissioners of election if the city has failed to elect officers in accordance with its charter, and there are no officers to carry on the city government, or the city has attempted to adopt a freeholders charter under the State Constitution, and has failed to legally elect officers, and the freeholders charter is held to be invalid.

Section 10301 requires the petition to the Governor to set forth the following information:

  • The name of the city, with the date and manner of organization.
  • The date of the last election for officers; whether they are performing their duties, and if not, how long since they have ceased to do so.
  • The provision of the charter relating to the qualifications of voters.
  • That each person signing the petition possesses the qualifications provided for voters by the charter.
  • That each of the signers of the petition is a householder and freeholder in the city.

Section 10302 requires the petition to be signed by at least 75 persons in the city, each of whom possesses all the qualifications mentioned in the body of the petition. Section 10303 provides that, upon the presentation of the petition to the Governor, the Governor is required to either act upon it or require additional evidence of the matters set forth in the petition.

Section 10304 requires the Governor to issue a commission to the commissioners, and the issuance of the commission is required to be conclusive evidence of the regularity of all the proceedings to and including the appointment of the commissioners. Within 10 days after their appointment, the commissioners are required to take the constitutional oath of office before some officer authorized to administer oaths. The commission must be organized by the election of a president and secretary from their own members. The commission must keep minutes of all its proceedings.

Section 10305 authorizes the commissioners to call an election for the officers required by the charter of the city to be elected only by the voters in the city. The order must specify the names of the offices to be filled and the date of the election.

Section 10306 requires, prior to the election, the commission to appoint precinct boards and fix the places of holding the election, as required in the city charter. The election is to be conducted as required by the city charter for the election of officers. If a voter is challenged on the ground that his or her name does not appear on the register of the county, it is sufficient for him or her to state, under oath, that he or she believes his or her name is upon the register and, if no other evidence is offered, the precinct board is required accept that statement as true.

Section 10307 requires the precinct boards to make return of the election as required in the charter of all officers voted for at the election, without reference to whether they were voted for in the whole or only a ward or subdivision of the city.

Section 10308 requires, within five days after the election, the commissioners to canvass the returns and declare which persons were elected. The commission then must issue certificates of election to the persons declared to be elected.

Section 10309 requires, within 10 days after issuance of the certificates of election, the officers to qualify and enter upon the discharge of their duties, in accordance with the charter. If any person chosen at the election fails to take the oath of office and enter upon the discharge of his or her duties within the time above specified, the office is deemed vacant.

Section 10310 requires at the first meeting of the governing body of the city after the election the commissioners to deliver to the governing body all books and papers in their possession relating to their office of election commissioners.

Section 10311 provides, whenever the officers elected at the election, and the officers authorized by the charter to be elected or appointed by the governing body or executive department of the city, have qualified and entered upon the discharge of their duties, the city is deemed to be fully organized and in operation as if the election had been held at the time and in the manner required by the charter.

Section 10312 requires, whenever the government of the city is in full operation, the governing body to enter a resolution in its minutes declaring that fact. The resolution is conclusive evidence of that fact, except as against a direct action or proceeding to set aside or annul the government.

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