Editorial: Change California recall rules — but don’t take power away from the people

By The Times Editorial Board, The Los Angeles Times |

Another, perhaps more palatable option to voters (and more applicable to other statewide officers, who don’t have elected understudies) would be to separate the recall and the replacement ballots — that is, hold a recall election and if the elected official is removed, then hold a second election later to choose the replacement. Yes, this would mean that taxpayers are on the hook for the cost and time of another election, or possibly two more if no replacement candidate gets 50% and there’s a runoff, but these additional elections would only happen if the recall is successful. What’s more, separating the two elections would remove the incentive for a partisan attack.

What legislators ought to avoid is proposing standards for when a recall can be launched. While some advocates want to restrict recalls to elected officials accused of malfeasance, that’s too subjective. What one voter views as acceptable from an elected official may look like wrongdoing to another.

Finally, it makes sense to advance the reforms in more than one ballot measure, as Karthick Ramakrishnan, a public policy professor at UC Riverside, suggested to lawmakers at the hearing last week. That way if voters don’t like a proposal to, say, change the signature requirement from 12% of votes cast in the last election to 10% of all registered voters, it won’t tank all the reforms. He recommended adding a sunset provision as well, so that voters aren’t stuck with any unforeseen problems with recall changes.