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California Democratic lawmakers fighting ‘hyperpartisanship’ by changing recall election law

California Democratic lawmakers proposed a bill Tuesday that would replace current local recall election laws to combat “hyperpartisanship.” If passed, the new law would prevent the recall vote and successor candidates from existing on the same ballot.

Under current California law, citizens can recall a local sitting government official. Californians are provided a single ballot on which they vote on whether or not to remove a sitting official and, if so, to select a replacement.

State lawmakers proposed a bill that would eliminate the second part of that ballot. Instead, Californians would receive a ballot to vote only on removing or keeping a local sitting official. If the official is removed from office, the replacement would be determined by the local government or a separate special election.

According to the Associated Press, California Democrats are pushing for the bill because they say it would prevent sitting officials from being replaced by candidates who received fewer votes in a multi-candidate election.

The pending bill would only impact local elections, not statewide recalls. Democrat state Senator Steve Glazer stated that the prospect of statewide reform has “dimmed over time.”

In 2021, 70 local officials were targeted for recalls in California, stated Democrat state Senator Josh Newman. The senator was previously recalled in 2018 but regained his seat in 2020.

Los Angeles district attorney George Gascón survived two recall attempts. The last effort fell through earlier this month when, yet again, the petitions did not meet the minimum number of valid signatures. County Registrar-Recorder/County Clerk Dean C. Logan reported that 195,783 of the 715,000 signatures were determined invalid.

Newman told the Associated Press that the current law “offers bad actors a powerful incentive for targeting an elected official with whom they disagree, in order to replace them with someone who would otherwise not enjoy the support of a majority of voters.” He said that the new bill will restore elections to their intended purpose and “not as an end-around to subvert standard electoral processes.”

Republican state Senator Brian Jones accused Democrat lawmakers of creating a solution “in search of a problem.” He said, “I don’t know that we need to meddle with laws that have been in place for decades that have worked and are doing their job.”

The bill was approved by the Senate and is currently awaiting a final vote by the Assembly.