JoinCalifornia: Election History for the State of California

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Recalls in California History

The recall is a rarely used process that permits a public vote to determine whether a public official will be removed from office. Recalls are initiated by the circulation of petitions; for statewide offices, the number of signatures needed is 12% of the votes cast in the last election. For all other partisan offices, the number of signatures is 20% of the votes cast in the last election. In both cases, the petition circulators are on a sharp deadline; the signatures are due 160 days after the Secretary of State approves the language for the petition.
The high number of signatures needed is a major hurdle that most recall campaigns are unable to overcome; since 1913, only eleven of the 179 attempted recalls (Source) have qualified for the ballot.

The election ballot will feature two questions; the first asks the voter to vote on whether the official should be recalled (ex. "Shall Gray Davis be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor?") and the second question asks the voter to identify the candidate that they prefer in the event that the recall is successfull. The two questions are independent and it is possible to vote no on the first question and still select a candidate in the second.

Year Office Incumbent Party Outcome Successor Party Days between recall and inauguration
2021 Governor Gavin Newsom Dem

2018 State Sen. Josh Newman
Pass Ling-Ling Chang Rep 20
2008 State Sen. Jeff Denham Rep Fail    
2003 Governor Gray Davis Dem Pass Arnold Schwarzenegger Rep 41
1995 ASM Doris Allen Rep Pass Scott Baugh Rep 1
1995 ASM Mike Machado Dem Fail    
1995 ASM Paul V. Horcher Rep Pass Gary G. Miller Rep 2
1994 State Sen. David Roberti Dem Fail    
1914 State Sen. Edwin Grant Dem Pass Ed Wolfe Rep 88*
1914 State Sen. James Owens Dem Fail    
1913 State Sen. Marshall Black Rep Pass Herbert C. Jones Rep 4

Source for duration between recall and inauguration:
 * Newman-Chang Recall [June 5-25th] (Source: 2017-18 Senate Journal, June 25, page 4854)
 * Allen-Baugh Recall [November 28-29th] (Source: 1995-96 Assembly Journal, December 7, page 4209)
 * Horcher-Miller Recall [May 16-18] (Source: 1995-96 Assembly Journal, May 18, page 1448)
 * Grant-Wolfe Recall [October 8, 1914-January 4, 1915] (Source: 1915 Senate Journal, January 4th, page 3)
NOTE: This duration was particularly long because the legislature was in recess until January and (at the time) legislators were only sworn in on the Senate Floor.
 * Black-Jones Recall [January 2-6] (Source: 1913 Senate Journal, January 2nd, page 2)



Contested Elections

A contested election is an election in which, after an election occurs, a candidate who has "lost" the election asks the legislature to make a determination about who actually won. Election contests only occur after a candidate has "won" and is sworn into office. Changes in the vote lead prior to assuming office are not listed here.

Year Office Incumbent Party Outcome Challenger Party Days between first inauguration and successful contest
1981 State Assembly Adrian C. Fondse Rep Contested Patrick Johnston Dem 35 days
1955 State Senate Alan Short Dem Failed Verne W. Hoffman Rep
1909 State Assembly George J. Black Dem Failed Theodore F. Roberts Rep
1909 State Senate Charles A. Nelson Rep Failed Cornelius P. Lyons Dem
1903 State Assembly A. D. Duffey Dem Contested Harry S. Wanzer (resigned 3/16) Rep 37 days
1897 State Assembly J. J. McLaurin Rep Contested John D. Kelsey Dem 52 days
1895 State Assembly J. B. McDonald Dem Contested H. M. Collins Rep 53 days
1894 Congress Samuel G. Hilborn Rep Contested Warren B. English Dem 397 days
1884 State Assembly Daniel J. Leary Dem Contested Julius Buhlert Rep 14 days
1883 State Senate George Steele Rep Contested J. Marion Brooks Dem 47 days
1883 State Senate Jonathan M. Dudley Rep Contested Leonard W. Buck Dem 40 days
1883 State Assembly Douglas Barnes Rep Contested E. C. Dozier Non 40 days