The California Secretary of State is responsible for overseeing recalls for state officers, including for constitutional offices (Governor, Lieutenant Governor, Attorney General, etc.), state legislators, and justices of the Supreme and Appellate Courts. Local recalls are overseen by county or city elections officials.
The recall process is outlined in the California Constitution (Article II, Sections 13-19) and the California Elections Code (Sections 11000-11110, 11300-11386).
The recall has been part of California’s political system since 1911. It provides a mechanism for the public to attempt to remove elected public officials from office before the end of their term of office. Before a recall election can be initiated, a certain number of voters must sign a recall petition within a specified amount of time.
QUESTIONS & ANSWERS TOPICS
- Gubernatorial Recall Ballot
- Voter Information Guides
- After Election Day
- Campaign Contributions
- State Officer Recalls in General
- Governor Newsom’s Recall Petition
- Gubernatorial Recall Process
- Qualifications & Filing Requirements for Replacement Candidates
What does a recall ballot look like?
The September 14, 2021, California Gubernatorial Recall Election ballot will have two parts.
There will be a recall question presented on the ballot: “Shall GAVIN NEWSOM be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor?
Following that recall question, all qualified replacement candidates for the office of governor will be listed. The candidates may list their qualified political party preference, or lack of qualified party preference, as well as their ballot designation (if the candidate chooses to provide that information) describing their principal occupations(s), profession(s), and/or vocation(s). The Certified List of Candidates can be found on our website at: https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/statewide-elections/2021-recall/certified-list.pdf. Write-in replacement candidates for the office of governor can also run in the California Gubernatorial Recall Election. The Certified List of Write-in Candidates will be available on September 3, 2021.
If a majority of the votes on the recall question are “Yes,” Governor Newsom shall be removed from office and the replacement candidate receiving the highest number of votes shall be declared elected for the remainder of the governor’s term of office (ending January 2, 2023). If one-half or more of the votes on the recall question are “No,” Governor Newsom shall remain in office.
(Cal. Const., art. II, § 15(c); Elec. Code, §§ 11320, 11322)
Recall ballots have two parts. Must voters vote on both parts of the recall ballot?
No. Voters can vote on either one or both parts of the recall ballot. A voter can vote “no” to the question of removing the current elected officer from office and also select a replacement candidate.
Will initiatives or referenda appear on a gubernatorial recall ballot?
No. Initiatives and referenda will not appear on the gubernatorial recall ballot. Under Sections 8(c) and 9(c) of Article II of the California Constitution, only the Governor may call a special election that would place an initiative or referendum on the ballot. Under Section 17 of Article II of the California Constitution, the Lieutenant Governor is authorized to issue a proclamation for the recall election only.
In addition, the Secretary of State can only place an initiative on a ballot that has qualified at least 131 days before a regularly scheduled statewide general election or a special election held before that election. (Cal. Const., art. II, § 8(c)) Since recall elections are called 60 to 80 days before the recall election occurs, there is not enough time to place an initiative on a recall ballot.
Will a replacement candidate’s political party preference and occupation be noted on a recall ballot?
Yes. A replacement candidate’s political party preference will be included on the ballot along with their occupation, if a ballot designation worksheet was filed with their county elections official and the candidate’s ballot designation was approved by the Secretary of State.
Who can vote in a gubernatorial recall election?
Any California registered voter may vote in a gubernatorial recall election.
To check your voter registration status, go to voterstatus.sos.ca.gov. If you need to update your voter registration or find out if you are eligible to register to vote, you can visit our California Online Voter Registration page at registertovote.ca.gov.
Will every active registered voter be mailed a vote-by-mail ballot?
Yes. Every active registered voter will be mailed a vote-by-mail ballot for the recall election. Counties will begin to mail vote-by-mail ballots approximately 29 days before Election Day.
Will the Secretary of State mail an Official State Voter Information Guide for a recall election?
Yes. An Official State Voter Information Guide will be mailed to every active registered voter household in the State. The Official State Voter Information Guide will have information on the statewide recall election.
Will counties mail county voter information guides for a recall election?
Yes. A county voter information guide will be mailed to every active California registered voter. Some counties include this guide in the same packet with a voter’s vote-by-mail ballot. County voter information guides will provide information on polling locations, a sample of the ballot, and other helpful voter information.
Will there be candidate statements for the replacement candidates?
Yes. A replacement candidate may purchase space for a statement up to 250 words in the Official State Voter Information Guide, if they accept the voluntary expenditure limits to run as a candidate. The current voluntary expenditure limit to run for Governor is $9,728,000.
The deadline for candidates to purchase space for a statement was July 16, 2021. Information on the candidate statement process may be found here: https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/statewide-elections/2021-recall/candidate-statement-guidelines.pdf In addition, the list of candidates who have accepted the voluntary expenditure limit may be found here: https://elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/statewide-elections/2021-recall/statewide-501-report.pdf.
What happens after the recall election?
If a majority of the voters vote “yes” on the first question, then the recall is successful and Governor Newsom will removed from office. The replacement candidate who gets the most votes is elected for the remainder of the term of office (through January 2, 2023).
If 50% or more of the voters vote “no” on the first question, then the recall has failed and the Governor Newsom will remain in office.
If Governor Newsom is recalled, when would a new governor take office?
County elections officials have 30 days after the election to complete the official canvass. On the 38th day after the election, if the recall is successful, the Secretary of State will certify the election results, and the new governor would take the oath of office and assume the position for the remainder of the term (through January 2, 2023).
Do campaign contribution laws apply to recall elections?
Yes, campaign contribution laws apply to recall elections.
Committees formed to support or oppose the recall and candidates seeking to replace the elected state officer must comply with campaign finance requirements. The Fair Political Practices Commission is responsible for providing advice about campaign finance issues. They have prepared a fact sheet specific to recall elections that expands on this information. See: https://www.fppc.ca.gov/media/factsheets.html. For more information, please contact the FPPC or visit https://fppc.ca.gov/.
Are campaign contribution and expenditure reports for recall committees and candidates available on the Secretary of State’s website?
Yes. Committees supporting or opposing the recall are required to form committees and to file contribution and spending reports with the Secretary of State’s Political Reform Division. Recall targets may form recall committees or use existing committees to report contributions and spending related to the recall. Replacement candidates are required to form committees and file disclosure reports.
Campaign contribution and expenditure reports are available on the Secretary of State’s website at https://www.sos.ca.gov/campaign-lobbying.
When a committee (a person or group of people who receive or spend money for the purpose of influencing voters to support or oppose candidates or ballot measures) supports or opposes a candidate and raises at least $1 million, the committee must report its top 10 contributors to the California Fair Political Practices Commission (FPPC). The committee must update the top 10 list when there is any change. These lists are available on the FPPC website at http://www.fppc.ca.gov/transparency/top-contributors.html.
How many signatures are required for a gubernatorial recall?
To qualify a recall of the Governor for the ballot, proponents need a minimum of 1,495,709 valid petition signatures. This is equal to 12 percent of the votes cast for the office of Governor in 2018, which is the last time the office was on the ballot. Signatures from at least 5 counties must each equal 1 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last election for Governor in the county. (Cal. Const., art. II, § 14(b)) The total number of votes cast for Governor in the 2018 election was 12,464,235.
Who may sign the recall petition?
Only the signatures of registered California voters are counted to qualify a gubernatorial recall for the ballot. (Elec. Code, §§ 322, 11045)
Are the petitions filed with the Secretary of State?
No, each petition must be filed with the elections official of the county where it was circulated by the proponents or their authorized representatives. (Elec. Code, §§ 11102, 11103)
Who verifies petition signatures?
County elections officials are responsible for counting the recall petition signatures and must verify recall petition signatures once the proponents have submitted for verification at least 10 percent of the total number of required signatures. (Elec. Code, § 11104(d))
Has a California Governor ever been recalled?
Since the people added the power of the initiative, referendum, and recall to the California Constitution in 1911, there have been 54 previous attempts to recall California Governors. Only one Governor has been recalled – Gray Davis in 2003.
Who are the proponents of the current gubernatorial recall effort?
By law, the proponents are those persons who signed the original Notice of Intention to Recall Governor Gavin Newsom that was filed with the Secretary of State’s Office. The lead proponent of the recall of Governor Newsom is Orrin E. Heatlie. Including Mr. Heatlie, there are 125 official proponents of the current recall effort against the Governor. (Elec. Code, §§ 343, 11020)
When did the current recall effort begin?
The proponents’ petition to recall Governor Newsom was approved for circulation by the Secretary of State on June 10, 2020. (Elec. Code, § 11042(d))
Each petition section is required to include specific information, including the proponents’ Notice of Intent with the statement of grounds for initiating the recall, as well as the Governor’s answer. (Elec. Code, §11041) Notice of Intent (PDF) and Answer (PDF).
How much time did the recall proponents have to gather signatures?
In general, recall proponents have 160 days to circulate the approved petition in at least five counties. (Cal. Const., art. II, § 14(a))
For the current effort to recall Governor Newsom, the original deadline for the proponents to circulate and file petitions with county elections officials was November 17, 2020. However, an extension of time for the circulation and filing of the petitions up to and including March 17, 2021, was granted by the Sacramento County Superior Court, due to the impact of COVID-19. Stipulated Order 1/8/2021 (PDF)
Did the recall proponents gather enough signatures?
Yes. On April 26, 2021, California Secretary of State Dr. Shirley N. Weber announced that the threshold of 1,495,709 verified signatures reported by counties had been met for the recall of Governor Gavin Newsom. County elections officials reported the final signature verification on April 29, 2021.
Can voters withdraw their signature from the Governor Gavin Newsom recall petition?
Any voter who has signed a recall petition may provide a written request to their county elections official to have their signature removed from the petition before the petition was filed with the county elections official or within 30 business days of the required amount of valid signatures being reached. Voters seeking to withdraw their signature from a recall petition had to submit the withdrawal request to the county elections official where the voter lived at the time they signed the petition.
The withdrawal period for the gubernatorial recall election was April 26, 2021, to June 8, 2021. (Elec. Code, § 11108(b)) County elections officials were required to report the total number of withdrawn signatures to the Secretary of State by June 22, 2021. The Secretary of State was then required to determine if the petition still has the requisite number of valid signatures to initiate a recall election.
On June 23, 2021, the Secretary of State notified the Department of Finance that there were still a requisite number of valid signatures, after the withdrawn signatures were removed, to initiate a recall election. 6/23/21 Notice to Department of Finance (PDF)(Elec. Code, § 11108(c) and (d))
On July 1, 2021, the Department of Finance provided their estimated costs of the gubernatorial recall election to the Joint Legislative Budget Committee and the Secretary of State. 7/1/21 Department of Finance Cost Estimates (PDF)
On July 1, 2021, the Secretary of State certified the recall and notified the Lieutenant Governor. 7/1/21 Certification of the Recall (PDF)
On July 1, 2021, the Lieutenant Governor issued a proclamation calling for the California Gubernatorial Recall Election to be held on September 14, 2021. 7/1/21 Lieutenant Governor Proclamation (PDF)
Who sets the date of a gubernatorial recall election?
The Lieutenant Governor sets the date of a gubernatorial recall election. A recall election must be held between 60 and 80 days from the date the Secretary of State certifies that it has qualified, unless there is a regularly scheduled statewide election within 180 days. (Cal. Const., art. II, § 15) Normally, the Governor would be required to set the election for a qualified statewide recall; however, when the Governor is the target of a recall, any of the Governor’s duties related to the recall are performed by the Lieutenant Governor. (Cal. Const., art. II, § 17)
What is the cost of a gubernatorial recall election?
On July 1, 2021, the Department of Finance provided the estimated costs of the gubernatorial recall election, including expenses for verifying signatures, printing ballots and voter information guides, and operating polling places. (Elec. Code, § 11108(d))
The estimated costs of the recall election is be posted on the Secretary of State’s website: 7/1/21 Department of Finance Cost Estimates (PDF). (Elec. Code, § 11108(e), (f))
What is the deadline for filing as a replacement candidate in the Governor’s recall?
The deadline to file as a replacement candidate is contingent upon the election date included in a recall election proclamation issued by the Lieutenant Governor. The deadline for the California Gubernatorial Recall Election was July 16, 2021.
Can Governor Newsom, who is the target of a recall effort, run as a replacement candidate?
No. A person whose recall is being sought cannot be a candidate to succeed themselves at a recall election. (Elec. Code, § 11381(c))
Who can run as a replacement candidate?
A replacement candidate must meet legal qualifications and requirements to run for the office of Governor. A candidate must: be a U.S. citizen; be a California registered voter and otherwise qualified to vote for that office at the time nomination papers are issued; not have been convicted of a felony involving accepting or giving, or offering to give, any bribe, the embezzlement of public money, extortion or theft of public money, perjury, or conspiracy to commit any of those crimes; and not have served two terms in the office since November 6, 1990. (Cal. Const., art V, § 2; Elec. Code, §§ 20, 201)
What are the candidate filing requirements to run as a replacement candidate?
A replacement candidate must follow existing primary election nomination procedures to run for the office of Governor and must file the required paperwork no less than 59 days before the scheduled recall election, which was July 16, 2021.
A replacement candidate must:
- File with the county elections official, in which the candidate is registered to vote, the following:
- A Declaration of Candidacy, and
- Nomination Papers, with 65 to 100 valid nomination signatures.
- Pay a filing fee of $4,194.94 to the county elections official at the time the candidate obtains their Declaration of Candidacy and nomination papers.
- A candidate may choose to submit a minimum of 7,000 valid signatures on petitions in lieu of the filing fee.
(Elec. Code, §§ 333, 8020, 8062(a)(1), 8103(a)(1), 8105, 8106(a)(3),(b)(3))
What are the candidate filing requirements to run as a write-in replacement candidate?
A write-in replacement candidate must file a Statement of Write-In Candidacy with the county elections official of the candidate’s county of residence by August 31, 2021.
A write-in replacement candidate must file with the county elections official the Statement of Write-In Candidacy, which shall contain the following information:
- Candidate’s name,
- Candidate’s complete residence address,
- A declaration stating that the candidate is a write-in candidate,
- The name of the office for which the candidate is running,
- The date of the election,
- Candidate’s 10-year political party preference history.
(Elec. Code §§ 8600, 8601)
The Certified List of Write-in Candidates will be available on September 3, 2021.