California Gov. Gavin Newsom to face recall vote as petition drive hits signature goal

Julie Makinen
Palm Springs Desert Sun
California Gov. Gavin Newsom reacts after being inoculated by Dr. Mark Ghaly, California's Health and Human Services secretary, on Thursday, April 1, 2021. Newsom was vaccinated with the new one-dose COVID-19 vaccine by Johnson & Johnson.

California's secretary of state said Monday that organizers of a petition drive to force a recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom have gathered more than 1.6 million valid signatures — more than enough to qualify for the ballot.

The 1.6 million signatures are about 100,000 more than needed to force a vote on the first-term Democrat.

However, the validation process won't be complete until Thursday. That's the deadline for county elections officials to verify the validity of any remaining signatures and report the final signature verification.

After that, the clock starts ticking on a period of 30 business days during which voters may ask county elections officials to remove their names from recall petitions up until June 8.

County election officials must report any withdrawn signatures to the secretary of state by June 22.  After that, the secretary of state must re-calculate to see if the petition still has enough valid signatures to initiate a recall election, but at this point, it seems likely that the recall proponents will have enough to qualify the measure even if some signatures are withdrawn.

In a recall election, voters would face two questions: Should Newsom be recalled and who should replace him? The votes on the second question will only be counted if more than half say yes to the first.

In 2003, voters recalled Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Caitlyn Jenner speaks at the 4th Women's March in Los Angeles on Jan. 18, 2020.  Jenner, the transgender icon, reality TV star and former Olympic athlete, has declared her intention to run for California governor in the looming recall race to unseat incumbent Democrat Gavin Newsom.

The field shapes up

Newsom opponents, frustrated with the Democratic governor's liberal policies and approach to the COVID-19 pandemic, in March turned over 2 million petition signatures to qualify the recall election against him.  

On Friday, Caitlyn Jenner, the former Olympic athlete-turned-transgender activist and reality TV star, declared her intention to run to replace Newsom.

'I'm in': Caitlyn Jenner announces bid for California governor

Others who have declared their intention to run include John Cox, a Republican businessman who lost to Newsom in 2018 and is running again; former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; and ex-U.S. Rep. Doug Ose, who last held office in 2005.  

Related:Who's running for California governor? Here's who plans to be in the race

Newsom, who was elected governor in 2018, previously served as lieutenant governor and mayor of San Francisco. 

Newsom has been aggressively touring the state, touting its progress on vaccines. He has said he is taking the recall effort "very seriously" but has branded the drive as a “partisan political power grab” and the work of extremist conservatives and white supremacists like the Proud Boys. 

“This election will be about two different visions for California," said Stop the Republican Recall campaign manager Juan Rodriguez. "The Republican recall – backed by partisan, pro-Trump, and far-right forces – threatens our values as Californians and seeks to undo the important progress we’ve made under Governor Newsom — fighting COVID, supporting families who are struggling, protecting our environment, common-sense gun safety laws. There’s simply too much at stake – we will win.”

An election could be held in October or November, depending on how long various steps in the process take.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a press conference in Coachella, Calif., on Feb. 17, 2021.

Once the withdrawn signatures are removed, assuming enough valid signatures remain, the secretary of state then will notify the state Department of Finance, which consults with county elections officials to project the costs of the recall election. 

The proposed budget is reviewed by Joint Legislative Budget Committee, which has up to 30 days to examine it. 

After the JLBC’s 30-day review and comment period, the secretary of state will certify that the proponents have submitted enough valid signatures, and the lieutenant governor is then required to call a recall election to be held not less than 60 days nor more than 80 days from the date of certification of sufficient signatures.  

How to withdraw a signature from the recall petition

Any voter who signed the recall petition can ask their county elections official to remove  their signature. Voters who want to withdraw their signature from the petition must submit the request to the county elections office where the voter lived when signed the petition. 

No specific format is required; however, the withdrawal must be in writing and include the following:

  • Voter’s name
  • Residence address (at time of signing the recall petition)
  • Voter’s signature