California voters have started recall campaigns against governors 31 times in the past, but none has made it to the ballot. The effort under way against Democratic Gov. Gray Davis (search) looks more likely to succeed, largely because it's being funded in part by a wealthy Republican congressman who wants to be governor himself - Rep. Darrell Issa (search), R-Vista. Here's a look at how the process works, some history and other details.
RECALL LAW'S HISTORY - A special election on Oct. 10, 1911, under the leadership of reform Gov. Hiram Johnson, gave California voters the power to recall state elected officers, enact state laws and constitutional amendments by initiative, and repeal state laws by referendum.
RECALLS AND PROPOSITIONS - Although no recall of a statewide officer has ever made it to the ballot in California, the recall process is similar to the state's frequently used initiative process. California voters have approved numerous initiatives, including 1978's Proposition 13, which slashed property taxes and launched a tax revolt across the country, and 1994's Proposition 187 (search), which sought to outlaw many services to illegal immigrants but was largely overturned by the courts.
SIGNATURES REQUIRED - The main difference between qualifying a proposition and a recall is that a recall requires more signatures. While qualifying a proposed new law for the ballot requires valid signatures from 5 percent of the number of people who voted in the last gubernatorial election, qualifying a recall election requires signatures from 12 percent of the number of people who voted in the last election for the office being recalled. Recall proponents seeking to recall Davis need 897,158 signatures to get the measure on the ballot.
STARTING A RECALL - To begin recall proceedings, proponents must draft a recall petition alleging reasons for the recall and get the secretary of state to approve it. The state constitution sets no criteria for recall and explicitly states that "sufficiency of reason is not reviewable." Davis recall organizers accuse the governor of "gross mismanagement of California finances."
DEADLINE - After the secretary of state approves the petition, proponents have 160 days to collect the required number of signatures from registered voters. They must turn the signatures in to county officials who verify them and report tallies to the secretary of state. Backers of the Davis recall have until Sept. 2 to collect the needed signatures.
GATHERING SIGNATURES -Proponents who want to collect a large number of signatures generally use paid signature gatherers, which is why Issa's involvement in the anti-Davis effort is seen as key. Issa's recall group was offering $.75 a signature.
CERTIFYING SIGNATURES - Once the required number of signatures has been collected, the secretary of state has 10 days to certify the tally to the lieutenant governor, and the lieutenant governor has 60 to 80 days to call a special election. If there is a previously scheduled statewide election within 180 days of the certification of the required number of signatures, the lieutenant governor may schedule the recall election for the same day as the existing election.
ELECTION DATES - If recall backers reach the required number of signatures on Sept. 2, the most likely date for a recall election would be the state's March 2, 2004, primary. Recall proponents want to avoid that because the primary will likely have a large Democratic turnout as Democrats select their presidential candidate. So they are attempting to turn in their signatures in July, aiming for a special election in the fall.
ELECTION COST - The secretary of state estimates a special election would cost between $20 million and $30 million.
THE BALLOT - A recall ballot would have two sections. In the first, people vote yes or no on recalling Davis, with a majority of yes votes needed for the recall to pass. In the second, voters choose from a list of candidates to replace Davis if the recall is successful. Davis is prohibited from appearing on that list. If Davis is recalled, whichever candidate gets the most votes in the second part of the ballot becomes governor.
BEING A CANDIDATE - If there is an election, it's not hard to get on the ballot. Anyone can become a candidate by paying a $3,500 filing fee, submitting 10,000 signatures or a combination of the two. There is no limit on the number of candidates and they can be of any political party.
THE OUTCOME - If the recall succeeds, Davis is immediately removed from office and replaced by the winner, who serves out the remainder of his term. If it fails, Davis is reimbursed for his election costs and there cannot be another recall election for six months.