FAQ: California's recall.

FAQ: California's recall.

FAQ: California's recall.

Answers to your questions about the news.
Aug. 7 2003 7:39 PM

FAQ: How Will the Recall Work?

Your nagging questions answered.

California's pending recall election has drawn the interest of hundreds of candidates, including Arnold Schwarzenegger and Larry Flynt. The unorthodox process has also confused Californians and spectators alike. The San Francisco Chronicle expertly tackled a slew of recall questions on July 27, but our eagle-eyed readers have come up with a host of new recall conundrums. Here's the skinny on the election and the haze of litigation surrounding it. 


If it becomes clear that Gov. Gray Davis will lose the recall election, could he resign and leave the state in Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante's hands?

Nope. If Davis resigned today, Bustamante would take over until the Oct. 7 election. But if voters then opted to oust Davis, the elected replacement would take Bustamante's place. Officials aren't sure what to do if Davis resigns and the recall doesn't oust him—but presumably Bustamante would remain in power.

What will the ballot look like? 

The ballot will have two sections. In the first, citizens will be able to vote for or against the recall. In the second, voters will select their choice for Davis' replacement from a list of registered candidates. (There are already more than 350 people who signed up to run; the total will be finalized once the registration period ends on Saturday and their applications can be verified.) If a majority of voters oppose the recall, Davis will remain in office. If the majority chooses to oust Davis, the second portion of the ballot will come into play. Whoever wins the largest number of votes here wins the recall election.


The ballot will also contain two propositions, Nos. 53 and 54. (Unless, of course, yet another court case succeeds in keeping them off the ballot.) Proposition 53 is a financial proposal intended to set aside state funds for infrastructure development. Prop 54 is much more controversial: The anti-affirmative-action bill would forbid the state from "using race, ethnicity, color or national origin" to classify workers or students.

How will all those names fit on the ballot?

Ballot layouts vary from county to county. Once state election officials eliminate incomplete candidacy applications, it's likely that the number will be small enough to fit on a conventional ballot. If not, accommodations will be made at the county level.

Who decides what order the candidates' names will appear in?


On all California ballots, candidates are grouped by party, then listed in randomized alphabetical order. The randomization process (which involves film cartridges in a lottery-style contraption) might determine, for example, that all candidates whose last names start with the letter "H" will be listed first. But even within the H's, names will be further randomized according to the second letter, and then the third, and so on. Which means hypothetical candidate Hzyzitz might be listed before her hypothetical rivals Hzan and Hart, and recall voters searching through countless names won't have an alphabetical order to guide them.

State law says Davis can't put his name on the second half of the ballot. Could California voters write in his name?

According to California's Elections Code, Section 11320-11327, there must be a line for write-in votes in the list of candidates on the ballot. But these votes will count only if the name written in is that of a registered candidate—so unless Davis wins his suit to be allowed to run, he still can't win this way.

Who can enter the race?


California law dictates that each candidate be a registered voter, an American citizen, and fulfill all the regular requirements to run for governor. The deadline for registration is Aug. 9. Candidates must also submit a $3,500 filing fee or a set of signatures in lieu of the fee (10,000 for Democrats, Republicans, and Independents; a substantially smaller number for candidates who hope to represent smaller state-registered parties).

Can you vote against the recall and still vote for a candidate?

Yes. Regardless of whether or not you support the recall, you can still vote for a replacement. But there is another court battle over whether voters can refuse to vote on the recall but still vote for a replacement governor.

If Davis gets the boot, when will his successor take office?


The new governor must take office within 28 days of the Oct. 7 election.

If Diane Feinstein did run for governor and won, would she then get to choose her own replacement in the Senate?

Yes. According to California Election Code 11720, whenever a federal Senate term ends prematurely, the governor can select a replacement to hold office until the next general or special election. *

Correction, Aug. 8, 2003This ariticle originally stated that Sen. Diane Feinstein would not be able to choose her own successor to the Senate if she were to run in the gubernatorial election and win. In fact, according to California Election Code 11720, Feinstein could select her replacement. That person would then serve until the next general election, in November 2004.