The effort to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom passed a major milestone on Monday as Secretary of State Shirley Weber confirmed the recall petition had more than enough signatures to trigger an election.

The last time California voter faced such a choice was in 2003, when voters ousted Democratic Gov. Gray Davis and replaced him with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

The threshold for running in a recall race is relatively low compared to a regular election, which means Californians could have dozens of candidates to choose from on the ballot.

Now that the Newsom recall has qualified for the ballot, here’s what happens next:

Notification and withdrawal period

Recall proponents spent the better part of the last year trying to collect enough signatures. In this case, nearly 1.5 million were needed to force a recall election. Secretary of State Shirley Weber said they had more than 1.6 million.

Within 30 business days of Weber’s declaration Monday that the effort has the requisite signatures, any voter who signed the petition may withdraw their name from the petition. It’s unclear whether enough, or any, voters will withdraw their signatures and invalidate the petition.

After the withdrawal period closes, counties have 10 days to report to the state the number of removed signatures. If at that point the petition still has the necessary number of signatures, the Secretary of State will notify the state Department of Finance.

Estimating costs

Upon notification that the petition has the minimum number of valid signatures to initiate a recall, the Department of Finance will estimate the costs of the recall election and submit this estimate to the chair of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee, governor, lieutenant governor, and the secretary of state.

The Joint Legislative Budget Committee then has 30 days to review and comment on the cost estimate. Once that’s over, the secretary of state will certify that the proponents have submitted a sufficient number of valid signatures to qualify the recall for the ballot.

Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is then required to set a date for the election, which must be held between 60 and 80 days from the date of certification.

Recall election

Assuming each step listed above takes the full amount of allocated time, Californians can expect an election to be held sometime in November.

A recall ballot has two questions. The first question will ask the voter whether or not they want to recall Gavin Newsom. The second question will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled.

In order to run for governor, a candidate must be a U.S. citizen, a registered voter, and can’t have any felonies involving the misuse of public money on their record.

The California Constitution mentions that a gubernatorial candidate must be a resident of the state for at least five years, but according to 2018 guidance from the Secretary of State, the office considers that requirement to be unconstitutional and unenforceable.

The filing fee for a gubernatorial candidate is about $4,000. If they don’t want to pay that, they can submit 7,000 signatures instead.

In 2003, 135 candidates stepped up to put their names on the ballot to recall Davis. So far, a handful of Republicans have launched campaigns in the recall, including former Newsom opponent John Cox, Kevin Faulconer, the former mayor of San Diego, and former GOP Congressman Doug Ose.

Mail ballots

If there is a recall election, it’s largely going to be conducted through vote-by-mail ballots.

Newsom earlier this year signed Senate Bill 29, which will automatically send California voters a ballot in the mail for 2021 elections, similar to the way in which the state conducted the 2020 election.

In order for Newsom to hold his seat, a simple majority of voters (at least 50% plus one) must vote against recalling him. If the majority of voters choose to recall him, the candidate with the most votes from question two will finish out Newsom’s term, which runs until early 2023.


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