#183 Recall Election: State Officers.

by Nancy H. Martis
Copyright 1994, California Journal

A legislative constitutional amendment that authorizes a recall election
to be held within 180 days of certification of sufficient signatures so that
the election may be consolidated with the next regularly scheduled election
in the same jurisdiction.

Background: When Los Angeles County shelled out $900,000 to host the
recall election of Senator David Roberti (D Van Nuys) in April, a collective
"Yikes!" could be heard around the state. Seemed a waste of money to have an
election just two months before a primary was to be held anyway. Couldn't
they just slip it on the June ballot? The answer was "no," according to the
California Constitution, which requires state office recall elections to be
held 60 to 80 days from the date the secretary of state certifies signatures
on the recall petitions. But, after witnessing the cost to Los Angeles
County, especially when the dust had barely settled from the costly
Northridge quake, it looked like the 83 year old provision needed some
updating. The recall itself isn't exactly overused. There have been an
underwhelming four recall elections in the past 81 years: two in 1913;
one in 1944; and last April's unsuccessful recall of Roberti. However,
that's not for lack of trying; since 1913, there have been 107 recall
attempts, 55 of them since 1986. Current law enables the governor to
call a special election to fill a legislative vacancy within 180 days so
that it may be consolidated with a regular election. That goes for
scheduling statewide office recalls, too. Politically, the current 60 80
day provision can be used as a powerful tool in the effort to oust any
given elected official. In a special election where voter turnout is
typically subpar, it is believed to work to the ousters' advantage since
theoretically they can rally their own troops for the cause. But no one
ever accused Roberti of being typical. Proposition 183 was placed on the
ballot by the Legislature, where it received only nominal opposition.

Proposal: Proposition 183 adjusts the timing requirement during which
state office recall elections must be held in order that a recall can be held
with the next regularly scheduled election in the same jurisdiction. The
proposal changes the requirement from 60 80 days to 180 days from the day the
secretary of state's office certifies petition signatures. While the fiscal
impact cannot be estimated specifically, potential savings could be
significant to the state and to local governments, according to the
legislative analyst.

Arguments for: Senator Milton Marks (D San Francisco), Acting Secretary
of State Tony Miller and League of Women Voters President Marlys Robertson
argue that Proposition 183 would accomplish a couple of things: save
money by combining a recall with a regular election and increase voter
participation. Citing the high cost of April's special recall election in
Los Angeles County, proponents claim that their proposal could result in
cost savings of potentially millions of dollars, especially at a time
when the state struggles with economic crises and merciless natural
disasters. Additionally, proponents claim that to be "truly democratic,"
recall elections should be held when voter turnout theoretically is
higher, during a regular election.

Arguments against: Assemblymen David Knowles (R Cameron Park), Mickey
Conroy (R Orange) and Dean Andal (R Stockton) oppose Proposition 183 on the
basis that it interferes with the purpose of a recall, which they say is "to
make an immediate change in who we elect to represent our interests." They
claim the measure was put on the ballot by the Legislature to protect
legislators from the voters and would effectively keep "corrupt" officials in
office longer since the time requirement for actually holding the recall
would be extended. Further, opponents claim the proposal messes with the
ideals of the early 20th Century reformers who installed into the
constitution provisions for the initiative, referendum and recall. They also
say lumping a recall in with a general election where a targeted politician
actually could be seeking re election on the same ballot would confuse


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