California Democrats seek to change recall laws again

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – Four years ago, California Democrats changed state recall laws in part to slow the process down and try to help a state senator facing a recall vote for its support for the increase in the gasoline tax.

Now, as Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom faces a recall of his own, they are trying to change the laws again. This time around, however, Democrats want the opportunity to speed things up to take advantage of what they see as favorable conditions for Newsom.

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the changes on Monday.

Newsom’s campaign has not commented on the proposed change to the recall schedule. Recent polls show Newsom is in a stronger position than it was at the start of the year, when the pandemic was raging and much of the economy was shut down.

Those who want to speed things up believe that the longer the wait until voters vote, the greater the risk of trouble arises for Newsom. Democrats hold a large majority in the state legislature, which makes it easy for them to change the rules.

Jack Citrin, professor of political science at the University of California at Berkeley, said the change in the timetable threatened to reinforce public cynicism about politicians doing all they could to stay in power.

“They are trying to create a situation that is most favorable to the partisan outcome they favor,” said Citrin, who has studied confidence in the government and the California initiative process.

It’s common for state lawmakers that allow recalls to change election laws, but this usually happens after the contest ends, not before or during, said Joshua Spivak, an expert on recall elections. And efforts to manipulate the election calendar don’t always work, he noted, pointing to California State Senator Josh Newman, who lost his 2018 recall election despite rule changes. democrats..

“It really suggested that we maybe don’t know what we’re doing. By doing this, you are playing with fire, ”said Spivak, senior researcher at the Hugh L. Carey Institute for Government Reform at Wagner College and who runs the Recall Elections blog.

He speculated the change could backfire because an earlier election gives Democrats less time to motivate their voters. Republicans were behind the recall effort and have collected more than 1.7 million signatures. They say their constituents are on.

The Democrats’ rule changes failed to prevent Josh Newman from being recalled four years ago, and voters are also not going to fall for the trap now as they attempt to change the rules in the ‘hope to save Gavin Newsom’, the California Republican Party. wrote in a press release earlier this month.

The proposal put up for debate on Monday reverses some of the changes made to help Newman.

In 2017, Republicans targeted the Orange County lawmaker for his vote to raise the state’s gasoline tax because they believed it would be the easiest to overthrow. Democrats, meanwhile, said Republicans tricked voters into telling them the petition was about the gas tax and did not recall a senator.

This prompted Democrats to add steps to the recall process: Voters who sign recall petitions have 30 business days to withdraw their signatures, the state’s finance ministry must do a cost estimate, and the committee. Joint Legislative Budget has 30 days to review this estimate. .

All of the milestones were designed in part to push Newman’s election date back to coincide with the 2018 primary, when Democrats believed a higher turnout would result in a victory.

They were wrong. Newman lost the seat, although he won it back in the 2020 regular election.

Now seeking to speed up the process, the Democrats’ proposal would essentially bypass the legislative review process as long as lawmakers set aside money for counties to pay for the cost of the election. The state’s finance ministry has already requested a cost estimate from counties, and lawmakers plan to approve $ 215 million to cover local expenses.

Without legislative review, Democratic Lieutenant Governor Eleni Kounalakis, a supporter of Newsom, will be able to set an earlier election date. County clerks have said they need at least until September 14 to be ready.

Newsom’s campaign spokesperson Nathan Click did not respond to multiple requests for comment on whether the campaign had contacted Democratic lawmakers about the timing of the recall. Leading state lawmakers working on the issue, including Senate Budget Committee chair Nancy Skinner, declined to comment on the legislation.

Katie Talbot, spokesperson for President Anthony Rendon, said lawmakers did not need more time to consider election costs because they had already decided to reimburse counties. She acknowledged that this could allow for an earlier recall election.

Republicans, meanwhile, are sure to raise opposition in Monday’s debate. State Assembly Member Kevin Kiley, who is considering running for recall, accused Democrats of trying to “pass a new law.”

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