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Direct Democracy in California: The Recall

The three forms of direct democracy in the State of California

By Chris Micheli, January 24, 2020 8:52 am

Part lll Direct Democracy in California.

Part l is here. Part ll is here

One of the three forms of direct democracy in the State of California is the recall. It is available at the state or local levels. In this article, we are only examining the state recall process, which starts at Article 2, Section 13, which states: “Recall is the power of the electors to remove an elective officer.”

Section 14 explains that recalls of state officers are initiated by delivering to the Secretary of State a petition alleging for reason for the recall. Note that sufficiency of the reason for the recall is not reviewable by a court.

In addition, proponents of a recall against a state official have 160 days to file a signed petition. The petition to recall a statewide officer requires signatures from at least 12% of the last vote for that office, with signatures from each of 5 counties equal in number to 1% of the last vote for the office in the county.

For recall petitions against Members of the Legislature or Board of Equalization, as well as judges of courts of appeal and trial courts, the required number of signatures is 20% of the last vote for that office.

Section 16 specifies that the Legislature it to provide for circulation, filing and certification of the recall election. Section 17 requires that, if it is a recall of the governor or the secretary of state, then the recall duties of those offices are to be performed by the Lt. Governor or Controller.

Section 18 requires reimbursement to a state officer who is not recalled. The reimbursement is for the officer’s recall election expenses legally and personally incurred. In addition., another recall of the same officer is not allowed until six months after the election.

Section 19 specifies that the Legislature must provide for the recall of local officers. However, this is not applicable to counties and cities whose charters already provide for the recall of their officials.

The laws related to the use of recalls in California are found in the Elections Code, Chapter 1, which is titled “General Procedures: General Provisions and Initial Steps in the Recall.” These laws are found in Sections 11000 to 11047 of the Elections Code.

Section 11001 notes that judges of courts of appeal are considered state officers and judges of trial courts are considered county officers. Section 11002 defines “election official,” Section 11003 defines “governing board,” and Section 11004 defines “local officer.”

Section 11005 requires the proponents of a recall to be registered voters in the electoral jurisdiction of the officer they seek to recall. Section 1106 provides that proceedings may be commenced for the recall of any elective officer by the service, filing and publication or posting of a notice of intention to circulate a recall petition.

Section 11020 requires specified information to be contained in the notice of intention to recall an officer, including a statement of the reasons for the proposed recall, which cannot exceed 200 words in length. Section 11021 requires a copy of the notice of intention to be served by personal delivery, or by certified mail, on the officer sought to be recalled.

Within seven days of serving the notice of intention, the original notice must be filed, along with an affidavit of the time and manner of service, with the elections official or, in the case of the recall of a state officer, the Secretary of State. A separate notice of intention must be filed for each officer sought to be recalled.

Section 11022 requires a copy of the notice to be published at the proponents’ expense and publication is required unless there is no newspaper of general circulation able to provide timely publication in the jurisdiction of the officer sought to be recalled. If this publication is not possible, the notice has to be posted in at least three public places within the jurisdiction of the officer to be recalled.

Section 11023 requires that, within seven days after the filing of the notice of intention, the officer sought to be recalled may file with the elections official, or in the case of a state officer, the Secretary of State, an answer, in not more than 200 words, to the statement of the proponents. Section 11024 notes that the statement and answer are intended solely for the information of the voters. No insufficiency in form or substance thereof is permitted to affect the validity of the election proceedings.

Section 11041 requires the proponents to use the recall petition format provided by the Secretary of State and available from the county elections official or the Secretary of State. Before any signature may be affixed to a recall petition, each page of each section must bear certain required information.

Section 11042 provides that, within 10 days after filing of the answer to the notice of intention, or, if no answer is filed, within 10 days after the expiration of the seven-day period, the proponents are required to file two blank copies of the petition with the elections official in his or her office during normal office hours as posted or, in the case of a recall of a state officer, with the Secretary of State.

At the time of this filing, the proponents are also required to file proof of publication of the notice of intention, if the notice of intention was published, or an affidavit of posting of the notice of intention, if the notice of intention was posted. In addition, if the elections official finds that the requirements of this law are not met, the elections official must include in his or her findings a statement as to what alterations in the petition are necessary.

Section 11043 requires the petition sections to be designed so that each person who signs the recall petition can put forth his or her signature, printed name, residence address, name of community of residence. Margins and spacing requirements are also set forth in this section. Section 11043.5 requires the Secretary of State to provide to county elections officials a recall petition format for distribution to proponents of a recall.

In addition, the recall petition format must be made available upon request by the county elections official and by the Secretary of State. And note that the recall petition format made available must be utilized by proponents of a recall election.

Section 11044 specifies that separate petitions are necessary to propose the recall of each officer. Section 11045 requires that only registered voters of the electoral jurisdiction of the officer sought to be recalled are qualified to sign a recall petition for that officer Section 11046 requires each section of a petition to be attached to a declaration signed by the circulator.

Chapter 2 of the Elections Code (starting with Section 11000) deals with the recall of state officers. Section 11101 specifies that, unless and until it is otherwise proven upon official investigation, it is be presumed that the petition presented contains the signatures of the requisite number of registered voters. Section 11102 requires each section of a recall petition to be filed with the elections official of the county for which it was circulated.

Section 11103 provides that each section of the petition must be filed by the proponents or by any person or persons authorized, in writing, by a proponent. Each time an authorized person or persons files a section or sections of a petition, a copy of the written authorization must be submitted to the elections official.

Section 11104 provides that the elections official, 30 days after a recall has been initiated and every 30 days thereafter, or more frequently at the discretion of the elections official, must report to the Secretary of State specified information. And, the elections official is not be required to verify signatures on a recall petition until the signatures submitted equal at least 10 percent of the total signatures required to qualify the recall for the ballot, as determined by the Secretary of State.

Section 11106 states that, immediately after the deadline for submission of all signatures, the elections official must verify any remaining signatures. This verification applies to all signatures submitted to each county elections official. Section 11107 requires the elections official, upon the completion of each examination, to attach to the petition a certificate, properly dated, showing the result of the examination, and submit a copy of the petition, except as to the signatures appended thereto, to the Secretary of State and file a copy of the certificate in his or her office.

Section 11108 allows any voter who has signed a recall petition to have his or her signature withdrawn from the petition upon the voter filing a written request that includes the voter’s name, residence address, and signature with the elections official within 30 business days of the Secretary of State’s notice. The Secretary of State and elections officials must make the notifications and reports required until such time as the Secretary of State determines that there is a sufficient number of verified signatures, not including withdrawn signatures, to initiate a recall election.

In addition, upon receipt of the notification from the Secretary of State that there is a sufficient number of verified signatures, not including withdrawn signatures, to initiate a recall election, the Department of Finance is required to, in consultation with the affected elections officials and the Secretary of State, estimate the costs of the recall election, including expenses for verifying signatures, printing ballots and voter information guides, and operating polling places.

Thereafter, the Secretary of State is required to publish a copy of the estimate submitted by the Department of Finance on the Secretary of State’s public Internet Web site no later than 21 business days after the time for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee to review the estimate has expired.

Section 11109 requires that, when the Secretary of State determines that the proponents have collected sufficient signatures, he or she shall certify that fact to the Governor. Section 11110 specified that, upon receiving certification of the sufficiency of the recall petitions from the Secretary of State, the Governor must make or cause to be made publication of notice for the holding of the election.

In addition, the officers charged by law with duties concerning elections are required to make all arrangements for the election. The election is to be conducted, returned, and the results declared, in all respects as are other state elections.

Section 11300 provides that no insufficiency in a petition against any officer can bar the later filing of a new petition against that officer. Section 11301 provides that, if a petition is found insufficient by the elections official or, in the case of the recall of a state officer, the Secretary of State, the petition signatures may be examined further.

Section 11302 provides special rules for those occasions when a vacancy occurs in an office after a recall petition has been filed against the vacating officer. Essentially, the recall election nevertheless proceeds.

Section 11320 specifies what information must appear on the ballots at every recall election, except in the case of a landowner voting district, with respect to each officer sought to be recalled.  Section 11322 requires additional information to appear on ballot at all recall elections. Section 11323 provides that a voter must indicate either “yes” or “no.”

Section 11324 requires the official responsible for preparing the ballot to mail, at least 10 days before the recall election, a voter information guide to each registered voter of the electoral jurisdiction of the officer sought to be recalled. In addition, in the case of a recall of a state officer, the official responsible for preparing the voter information guide must include in the voter information guide the report of estimated costs of the recall prepared by the Department of Finance.

Section 11325 specifies that, with each voter information guide, there must be mailed for each officer whose recall is sought a printed copy of specified information. Section 11327 states that an officer whose recall is being sought may file a statement with the elections official, to be sent to each voter, together with the voter information guide.

Section 11328 provides that a recall election must be conducted, canvassed, and the results declared in substantially the manner provided by law for a regular election for the office. Section 11329 specifies that one election is sufficient for the recall of several officers.

Section 11381 provides that nominations of candidates to succeed the recalled officer are to be made in the manner prescribed for nominating a candidate to that office in a regular election insofar as that procedure is consistent with the remaining provisions of the Elections Code. There are specified exceptions that must be made to that procedure.

Section 11383 specifies that, if one-half or more of the votes at a recall election are “No”, the officer sought to be recalled continues in office. Section 11384 provides that, if a majority of the votes on a recall proposal are “Yes”, the officer sought to be recalled is removed from office upon the qualification of his successor.

Section 11385 provides that, if at a recall election an officer is recalled, the candidate receiving the highest number of votes for the office is declared elected for the unexpired term of the recalled officer. Section 11386 notes that, if the candidate who received the highest number of votes fails to qualify within 10 days after receiving his or her certificate of election, the office to which he or she was elected shall be vacant, and is to be filled according to law.

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