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Voting on a Recall Petition

At the same election to recall, there is also an election for a successor

By Chris Micheli, December 4, 2019 10:01 am

As provided by the California Constitution in Article II, Section 13, the “recall is the power of the electors to remove an elective officer.” The process is initiated by filing of the petition alleging a reason for the recall. However, “sufficiency of reason is not reviewable,” pursuant to Section 14. As such, neither a court nor a government official can “second-guess” the reason stated for the elected officer’s recall.

Some forget that, at the same election to determine whether to recall the elective officer, there is also an election to determine a successor for the office. Pursuant to Section 15, “if the majority vote on the question is to recall, the officer is removed and, if there is a candidate, the candidate who receives a plurality is the successor. The officer may not be a candidate…”

As such, the electorate casts two votes at the election: (1) Shall the elective officer be recalled? (2) Which candidate do you vote for to fill the term if the officer is removed? If the officer is not removed, then the results of the second question are moot. However, if the officer is removed, then he is she is replaced at the same election by the candidate who gets the highest number of votes. There is not a run-off election. Hence, the candidate who fills the seat can do so by less than 50% of the vote.

Note that, pursuant to Section 18, “a state officer who is not recalled shall be reimbursed by the State for the officer’s recall election expenses legally and personally incurred.” Hence, if the recall effort against a state officer is unsuccessful, then he or she can be paid back for their recall campaign expenses.

Moreover, under Section 18, “another recall may not be initiated against the officer until six months after the election.” Therefore, repeat efforts to recall the same official can only possible be pursued twice a year.

Chris Micheli

Chris Micheli is a lobbyist with Aprea & Micheli, as well as an Adjunct Professor of Law at the University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law.
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