What Do CA Democrats Do When a Vulnerable State Senator is Facing Recall? Change the Rules!

Jennifer Van Laar
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Posted: Jun 17, 2017 6:00 PM
What Do CA Democrats Do When a Vulnerable State Senator is Facing Recall? Change the Rules!

California Democrats won a supermajority in the state Senate in 2016, and it came down an extremely close race in Orange County, where Republican Assemblymember Ling Ling Chang was defeated by Democrat Josh Newman, a newcomer to politics. 

One of the many things Democrats have done with their unrestrained power is pass Senate Bill 1, which increases the gas tax and also raises yearly vehicle registration fees. Of course, these taxes and fees hit the working class - supposedly the core constituency of Democrats - hardest, yet the Dems are unconcerned about that.

Because the freshman Senator voted for this bill, he is facing a recall battle. To recall Newman, the proponents have to file a petition containing a certain number signatures of registered voters in that district. Currently, that number is 20 percent of the number of votes in the last election for that office. When the proponents filed their notice of intent to recall Newman, Democrats essentially rolled their eyes at the crazy conservatives who thought they had even a smidgen of power in the state.

Well, now that the word on the street is that the proponents should hit the number of signatures needed for the petition, Democrats are in scramble mode. (Turns out maybe Orange County voters don't like being called freeloaders by the Governor for opposing this tax increase.) 

And when the Democrats are in scramble mode, they do what they do best - attempt to deceive, and/or change the rules. 

California legislators had until June 15 to pass a budget on to Gov. Brown. Sacramento watchers know that the last few weeks before the budget is passed you have to watch the "trailer" bills like a hawk. This is where they stick proposals that they either don't want to debate about openly or are last-minute middle fingers to political enemies. They have done this so often (and famously in 2016's Gunpocalypse legislation) that last year California voters passed Prop 54, which requires legislation to be posted online and in print for 72 hours before a vote.

Ask Kevin de Leon if he cares about following the will of the voters there. (Spoiler alert: He doesn't.) So, in a budget-related bill about veterans cemeteries, Dems added a section changing the rules for recall elections and making them retroactive. 

Currently, once the proponents have the appropriate number of signatures, the petition is turned in to the county elections official, who verifies them using a random sampling method, and, after verifying that the signature requirements have been met, certifies the petition. Once the petition is certified, the Governor is to call a recall election "within 60 to 80 days or to consolidate it with a regularly-scheduled election that will be held within 180 days of the certification of the petition."

Under the bill that just passed, the process has been turned into a maze of bureaucracy and waiting. A few highlights:

  • Signatures must be individually verified instead of using random sampling. 
  • Signers have 30 business days to withdraw their signature.
  • If after 30 business days there aren't enough signatures, proponents can attempt to get more, but each time they go back another 30-day period is triggered.
  • If ultimately enough verified signatures are gathered, the Department of Finance has to conduct a study to predict the cost of a special election.
  • The Joint Legislative Budget Committee must be allowed 30 days to review the cost estimate.

And, of course, it costs money. The legislature is appropriating $5 million for implementation of this procedure. If the GOP is smart, they will publicize this $5 million "donation" to the Newman campaign. 

This isn't the Dems' only method of fighting the recall. Last weekend, during Pride, an Orange County Democratic Party official verbally attacked a group of signature gatherers outside a Wal-Mart. He was especially incensed that there were gay conservatives out gathering signatures for the recall.

And Governor Brown has spent over $100,000 to hire out-of-state "goon squads" to intimidate voters who want to sign the recall petition. 

Dissent is not allowed in California - unless you're dissenting against the President.