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What to Know About the Recall Election Process

So how does the recall work? What’s ahead? Here’s what you need to know:

How many signatures does the recall require?

For the recall to move ahead, proponents must submit 1,495,709 valid signatures total to county election officials by March 17, the court-determined deadline, which was extended because of the pandemic. The number of signatures required is 12 percent of the votes cast in the most recent governor election, when Mr. Newsom defeated the Republican businessman John Cox in 2018.

And yes — as the Secretary of State’s office recently emphasized in response to incorrect information that had been circulating online — signatures for any official petition must be verified and determined to be valid.

In this case, election officials have to compare the signature on the petition to the voter’s signature in their registration record; signatures must come from a registered voter.

Counties have until April 29 to verify signatures. After that, the Secretary of State’s office has 10 days to determine whether there are enough valid signatures to qualify the recall election. (Another note: Voters who have signed the recall petition can withdraw their signatures within 30 business days of that determination, and county election officials have 10 days after that period to notify the Secretary of State’s office about how many people have withdrawn.)

How many signatures has this recall actually gotten?

According to the state’s most recent report, as of Feb. 5, supporters of the effort to recall Mr. Newsom had submitted roughly 1.1 million signatures total, including 798,310 signatures that have been verified by county officials.

Of those, about 84 percent, or 668,202, were valid, meaning they belonged to a registered California voter.

Is the recall election likely to happen?

That 84 percent figure is an unusually high rate of valid signatures, compared with, say, a typical petition to put an initiative on the ballot. Observers say that’s an encouraging sign for backers of the recall.

Furthermore, experts have told me that polling suggests there are plenty of voters, including some six million who cast ballots for former President Donald J. Trump, who are likely to support a recall.

Widespread dissatisfaction with the initial vaccine rollout could contribute to those numbers. Finally, as the school year inches closer to its typical close with most students learning remotely, the governor is under fire from both Republicans and members of his own party over the failure to reach a broad agreement on how to bring children back to classrooms.

Still, experts have said that things could change significantly before voters are asked to decide whether to end their governor’s term early.

What happens if a recall campaign gets enough signatures?

The state’s Department of Finance will work with the Secretary of State’s office and county election officials to estimate how much a recall election will cost. Once that happens, the estimate goes to top state officials and then the Joint Legislative Budget Committee has 30 days to review and comment on the costs before the signatures are officially certified.

After that, the lieutenant governor — not the Secretary of State’s office — is required to set an election between 60 and 80 days from the date of certification. That could be extended to 180 days if it would allow the recall election to be consolidated with a regularly scheduled election.

Analysts have suggested that a recall election could take place in November.

Voters would be asked two questions: Should Mr. Newsom be recalled? And if a majority of voters say yes, who should replace him? (In 2003, the winner from a crowded field of candidates was Arnold Schwarzenegger.)

Is this unusual?

Sort of. California is one of 19 states, plus the District of Columbia, that allow state officials to be recalled. And while recall efforts have been started for every California governor since 1960, only one has led to an election.

Read more:

  • Here’s a detailed explainer about how to recall a governor in California. [CalMatters]

  • Here’s everything else you might want to know about who’s behind the effort to recall Mr. Newsom and the history of governor recalls. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • What do the polls say? Here’s a recent look. [The New York Times]

  • The state answered many questions about the recall process — in 2003. (Take the estimated costs with a grain of salt.) [California Secretary of State]

  • Could Democrats delay the recall? Here’s a look at possible ways of extending the timeline — though some say that could give recall supporters more time. [The Sacramento Bee]

  • The governor recently approved a law that would extend a requirement that a vote-by-mail ballot be sent to every eligible voter to each election “proclaimed or conducted” before the beginning of 2022. [California Legislature]


Tell us what you want to know: We know that California’s school reopening process has been halting, fragmented, unequal and confusing. There’s a lot in flux, and we want to help you sort through it. If you’re a parent or an educator (or both), please email us your questions at [email protected]. We’ll answer some of them.

Read all of The Times’s school reopening coverage here.


  • Gov. Gavin Newsom said that the state was reorganizing its vaccination efforts and that more doses would go to the Central Valley, which has been slammed by the pandemic. [The Bakersfield Californian]

  • It started with a hot mic moment, during which there were jokes about parents wanting children to go back to school so they’d be free to smoke pot. Then the whole Oakley Union Elementary School District board resigned. [The New York Times]

  • In his latest reform move, Los Angeles’s district attorney, George Gascon, is seeking information about officers with histories of misconduct that could affect their credibility in court. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • Following the passage of Proposition 22, corporations are hoping to press their advantage and use the model to convert millions more jobs to contract work. [Bloomberg]

Read more about the fight over Proposition 22. [The New York Times]

  • “If the studios wanted to kill the Golden Globes, they could overnight,” one source said. “But everybody likes getting an award.” The Hollywood Foreign Press Association is under fire — again — for self-dealing and ethical lapses. [The Los Angeles Times]

  • California’s almond bloom, the largest single pollination event on earth, has begun. [The San Luis Obispo Tribune]


California Today goes live at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time weekdays. Tell us what you want to see: [email protected]. Were you forwarded this email? Sign up for California Today here and read every edition online here.

Jill Cowan grew up in Orange County, graduated from U.C. Berkeley and has reported all over the state, including the Bay Area, Bakersfield and Los Angeles — but she always wants to see more. Follow along here or on Twitter.

California Today is edited by Julie Bloom, who grew up in Los Angeles and graduated from U.C. Berkeley.


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