Expert weighs in on increased effort to recall Gov. Newsom

Like many California voters, Joshua Spivak’s interest in the recall effort of Governor Gavin Newsom is growing. Unlike many people, the Oakland resident can recount specific details of nearly every recall effort in history. "Watching this happen is fascinating for anyone that is really into politics," said Spivak. 

Spivak wrote his Master’s thesis on recalls, and he continues to study them, running a non-partisan blog and writing op-eds about the topic. As the "Recall Newsom" organizers keep pushing, Spivak believes they’re well on track to qualify. "California has arguably the lowest threshold for a major figure, lke governor, anywhere in the country," explained Spivak. "That’s 12% of the voter turnout in the last election."

That equates to about 1.5 million signatures by the March 17 deadline to force a special election. Organizers say they’ve collected more than 1.3 million. As of January 6, the Secretary of State reports just over 410,000 valid signatures have been submitted.

Only one governor in California history has been successfully recalled: Democrat Gray Davis in 2003. Spivak says if organizers are successful in getting the recall on the ballot, they still face major challenges in trying to remove Newsom in a state that’s only gotten more blue. "At the time, Gray Davis won 47% of the vote, he won by 5%. Gavin Newsom got 62% of the vote, he won by 24%, you have to do a lot to change that." 

This week, a Berkeley IGS poll showed Newsom’s approval sunk to 46%, the lowest ever in their survey, and nearly a 20% drop since the last poll in September. A Public Policy Institute of California poll released on the same day shows a more favorable approval number for the governor, at 52%. With how unpredictable the coronavirus has made everything, Spivak said he is intrigued to see this process play out. "Especially in a state as blue as California, what can they do? What changes, what arguments could they make that may help this? How will COVID matter and play into this race?"

Spivak’s research shows recall efforts, once on the ballot, are successful in removing elected officials across all levels of government about 60% of the time. But, he also qualifies his numbers with this: "In a recall, anything can happen essentially," said Spivak.