By Miriam Raftery
April 21, 2021 (Sacramento) – With California Governor Gavin Newsom facing a recall election, several measures have been introduced in the Legislature that would make it harder to recall state officials in the future.
However yesterday, State Senator Josh Newman, a Democrat, announced that he has withdrawn his Senate Bill 663, which would have required all county elections officers to publicly release names and contact information of each voter who signs a petition to recall a state official or put an initiative on the ballot.
Carl DeMaio, a Republican and Chairman of Reform California, issued this statement. “In the light of the justified public outcry, SB 663 has been withdrawn for now, but we know that Sacramento politicians will not stop their assault on citizens initiatives and recalls in California.” DeMaio accused the measure of being “designed to punish voters who dared to sign petitions on recalls and ballot measures that politicians oppose.”
Current law allows gives signers up to 30 days to change their minds; SB 663 would have extended that to 45 days.
But critics argued that revealing names of petition signers would subject them to harassment by targets of recalls or their backers. Newman, who faced a recall in 2018, noted that his bill would not have impacted the recall against Governor Newsom, since it would not have taken effect until 2022.
Though 663 has been withdrawn, several other bills that would make it harder to recall officials and/or put initiatives or referenda on a statewide ballot remain active in Sacrament, Cal Matters reports.
Senate Bill 752 by Senator Ben Allen would require that before voters sign a petition for a recall, initiative or referendum, they would first have to certify that they had read a list of the proposed measures’ top financial contributors. It aims to prevent misrepresentation by signature gatherers, according to the author.
Allen has also introduced Senate Constitutional Amendment 3, that would put the name of an official targeted for recall on the list of successor candidates. It aims to prevent a candidate from winning with only a small fraction of the vote, which can occur when many candidates are running to replace a recalled official.
SCA would also cancel a recall election if a state official facing recall resigned after the measure qualifies for the ballot. In the case of a governor, the lieutenant governor would fill the governor’s position. In the case of another state official, the governor will appoint a successor to fill the vacancy.
One other measure, Senate Bill 660, also by Newman, would ban paying professional signature gatherers for recalls, initiatives, and referenda to invalidate laws passed by the Legislature. This measures stands little chance of becoming law, however, since similar bills in the past have been vetoed by every recent governor – including Governor Newsom who wrote in 2019, “While I appreciate the intent of this legislation to incentivize grassroots support for the initiative process, I believe this measures could make the qualification of many initiatives cost-prohibitive, thereby having the opposite effect.”