Should California change its recall process? Experts weigh in on the pros and cons

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KGO) -- At the state Capitol on Thursday, lawmakers held a hearing on how and if California should reform the process to recall a governor.

The hearing came six weeks after the recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom, which cost the state nearly $300 million and ultimately didn't change a thing.

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A poll from the Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies shows a majority of Californians do support some kind of reform to the process. The question is: what should that be?

At the hearing, a variety of proposals were discussed.

Among them, a proposal to get rid of the second part of the ballot and simply have an automatic replacement model, where the Lt. Governor would automatically replace the governor if he or she is recalled.

"California law should not allow a governor to be recalled and replaced by someone who has far fewer votes," Bay Area assemblymember Marc Berman said.

Another proposal is to create a malfeasance standard, where a recall could only happen if the official actually violated the law or committed some wrongdoing. Joshua Spivak, a recall expert and author of the Recall Elections blog, told ABC7 News that's a very high bar and unlikely to pass.

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At the state Capitol on Thursday, lawmakers held a hearing on how and if California should reform the process to recall a governor.

"That effectively would kill the recall," Spivak said. "Seven states have that among the 19 states that have a governor recall and they do not have many recalls."

And a third option is to increase the signature threshold required to trigger a recall election. One suggestion is to make the requirement 10% of the total number of eligible voters, compared to the current requirement of 12% of the total number of people who voted in the most recent election.

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Those against recall reform believe that getting a recall to qualify is already hard enough.

"Anybody who makes that statement hasn't tried to gather two million handwritten wet signatures from anybody," Orrin Heatlie, who founded the Newsom recall petition, said of people who think recalls are easy to get on the ballot.

Heatlie attended the hearing on Thursday and is advocating for keeping the recall process as it is.

"Keep in mind, it wouldn't have been nearly as expensive as it was if the governor hadn't mandated we use a mail-in-ballot system," he said.

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber confirmed during the hearing that each mail-in-ballot that was sent to every eligible voter costs $3 a piece.

If a deal is reached, it would likely be up to voters to decide if they want it to pass.

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