How does recalling a California governor actually work? Here's the process

Liz Kreutz Image
ByLiz Kreutz KGO logo
Thursday, May 6, 2021
How does recalling a CA governor actually work? Here's the process
The state deadline to submit signatures to force a recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom is just one month away -- and organizers believe they will be successful. So how does a recall work? We have an explanation here.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- UPDATE, May 6, 2:30 p.m.: The below story has been updated to reflect recall organizers gathering enough verified signatures to lauch a recall election.

The petition to recall California's Gov. Gavin Newsom has collected 1.6 million verified signatures, meaning a recall election is all but inevitable.

The Recall Newsom campaign announced on April 26 that 1,626,042 of its signatures have been verified by the Secretary of State's office, surpassing the 1,497,709 threshold necessary.

RELATED: Map shows where the most recall Gavin Newsom signatures came from in California

So, what happens next? Here's a step-by-step breakdown of the recall process.


Voters who want to spark a recall vote must first get signatures. They need 12% of the total voter turnout from the last election. Currently, that's just under 1.5 million valid signatures.

In California, anybody can start a recall campaign -- and truly for any reason. "You can basically recall the guy for anything," Joshua Spivak, author of "The Recall Elections Blog," told us. "'I don't like your face recall' is how I think of it."

The state gives 160 days to gather all the signatures. Because of the pandemic, the time for the current recall effort was extended. The current deadline to collect and turn in signatures is March 17, 2021.

RELATED: Should California adopt a stricter recall election law? Bay Area congressman weighs in


If the recall organizers do submit the signatures by the deadline, then the counties have 30 business days to verify all the signatures and report it to the state.

The current recall organizers are hoping to submit nearly 2 million signatures to account for any signatures that come back invalid.

VIDEO: Why do people want to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom? We explain

A petition to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom is gaining steam, but why are people upset with him? Here are some of the reasons people want to recall the California governor.


If the numbers check out, then there's a period of time where people can withdraw their signatures. After that, there's other preliminary paperwork required by the state.

After all that -- the signatures still hold -- then the recall is on.

A date for the recall election is set by the Lt. Governor some time in the next 60 to 80 days. For Newsom, that means the election could be over the summer or, more likely, in the fall.

RELATED: Kevin Faulconer challenges Newsom's handling of pandemic as he jumps into race for governor


On the ballot, there's two parts. First, voters are asked if they want to vote yes for a recall or no, against a recall. If more than 50% of voters vote no, then the current governor remains.

In the second part of the ballot, voters are asked to pick a replacement in the event the recall passes.

Those who remember the Governor Gray Davis recall in 2003, will remember that truly anyone can jump into the fray. "Schwarzenegger. We had Gary Coleman. We had Arianna Huffington...a porn star. It was all over the place," Spivak recalls.

Whoever gets the most votes of that group wins the race.

RELATED: Former gubernatorial candidate John Cox plans to run for CA governor if Newsom is recalled


If a recall does pass and a new governor is chosen, the Secretary of State will then certify the election. The new governor would take the oath of office and assume the position within the next 28 days.