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California to Reform Flawed Recall System

For immediate release:

SACRAMENTO, CA – Last night, Governor Newsom signed AB 2584, Assemblymember Marc Berman’s bill that will make good governance reforms to our recall process.

“It is far too easy to initiate a recall in California, wasting taxpayer dollars and distracting local elected officials from being able to serve their communities” said Assemblymember Marc Berman. “While recalls can be an important tool to hold elected officials accountable, AB 2584 will ensure that the process to initiate a recall is rigorous enough to demonstrate that it is a serious effort, rather than weaponizing the recall process for the sole purpose of impeding government from working. In addition, this bill will make sure that voters are provided accurate and truthful information, and that we don't waste limited public resources.”

“The process for local recall elections is currently open to gamesmanship that undermines the democratic process,” said Stephanie Doute, Executive Director of the League of Women Voters of California. “AB 2584 will help protect against frivolous recall elections, provide voters with accurate information, maximize community participation in government decision making, increase transparency, and boost participation by consolidating special elections.”

“AB 2584 better reflects the popular will by raising the initial signature threshold for a special election to a higher, but still reasonable and readily achievable total,” said California School Boards Association (CSBA) President Dr. Susan Heredia. “This bill will increase transparency for voters by applying the same accuracy standards to petition statements that is required of information in other election contests. Finally, AB 2584 will reduce the cost to taxpayers of holding multiple, redundant elections, often within the span of a few months. These are all common sense steps to help make the election process more responsive to the interests of voters and we thank Asm. Berman for authoring this CSBA-sponsored bill, the Legislature for passing it, and Gov. Newsom for signing it into law.” 

Nearly a year ago, California held a statewide recall election. That election raised questions about whether a system designed in the early 20th century has enough checks and balances to ensure a democratic and fair process. As a result, last fall the Assembly and Senate Elections Committees conducted a series of bipartisan hearings on the recall process.

The committees evaluated recall laws in other states, and invited experts to examine California’s recall process. The committee heard from a variety of witness from academia, government, and the public on the need to retain recalls as an important tool to hold elected officials accountable. But it also heard of the need for statutory procedural reforms.

AB 2584 would make four distinct procedural changes to state and local recalls. It will address the signature threshold to initiate a recall, extend accuracy standards to the statement of reason and response for a recall, enhance the information provided to recall petition signers regarding the potential fiscal impact of school district-related recall elections, and allow additional opportunities to consolidate a local recall election with a regularly scheduled election. Importantly, these updates can be made without fundamentally altering or undermining the public’s ability to hold their government accountable.