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Here's What Has to Happen for Voters to Remove Gavin Newsom from Office

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California Gov. Gavin Newsom is facing the possibility of being removed by voters in a recall election in the middle of his first term.

Organizers appear close to qualifying the election for the ballot, and the vote would likely take place later this year.

Here’s a look at how it works and how we got here:

California is one of 20 states with provisions to remove a sitting governor in a recall.

The state law establishing the rules goes back more than a century and places more power directly in the hands of voters by allowing them to recall elected officials and repeal or pass laws by placing them on the ballot.

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Recall attempts are not uncommon in the state, but they rarely get on the ballot and even fewer succeed. Unpopular Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was recalled in 2003 and replaced with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Newsom was elected in a 2018 landslide in the heavily Democratic state, but his popularity tumbled as he imposed strict coronavirus rules that shuttered schools and businesses.

Meanwhile, he’s been weathering backlash for dining out with friends and lobbyists at an exclusive San Francisco restaurant last fall while telling residents to stay home during the pandemic.

Supporters of the recall were required to gather 1,495,709 petition signatures to authorize the election.

Do you think Gov. Newsom should be recalled?

They say they have collected over 2 million signatures, though many of those remain under review by election officials.

Recall organizers have until March 17 to submit signatures, then county election officials have until April 29 to verify them.

If supporters succeed in collecting sufficient signatures, the election would likely be held in the fall, possibly in November.

Voters would be asked two questions: first, whether Newsom should be removed. Voters would then choose from a list of replacement candidates.

Kevin Faulconer, the former Republican mayor of San Diego, and Republican businessman John Cox, who was defeated by Newsom in 2018, have entered the race. Another name being discussed in GOP circles is former President Donald Trump’s director of national intelligence, Richard Grenell.

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Newsom has waved off questions about the recall effort, and in a speech on Tuesday he referred to organizers as “promoting partisan political power grabs with outdated prejudices.”

If petition numbers hold up, it appears the recall will qualify for the ballot. But Newsom’s removal is far from certain.

California is one of the most heavily Democratic states in the country: Republicans haven’t won a statewide race in the state since 2006, and Democratic voters outnumber Republicans by nearly 2 to 1.


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