The history of recalls dates back more than a century and is part of a series of reforms passed between 1910 and 1913 under Governor Hiram Johnson, a progressive Republican crusade. It was the cornerstone of many years of efforts to curb the political power of the South Pacific Railroad, which owned most of the state’s government and economy and controlled politicians, judges and regulators.
Johnson’s reforms broke the hold by reviewing the state’s electoral system and enacting referendum, voting initiatives, and recall systems through a constitutional amendment passed by voters in 1911. Kevin Star, a California historian who died in 2017, called this “a true reproduction of California’s political and social order.”
It is often pointed out that Johnson’s reforms, a tool explicitly created to curb the impact of large corporations on California’s politics, are now the weapons of major corporations. This is especially true of the initiative that allows millions of dollars worth of clipboard-holding workers to collect signatures from registered voters on ballots.
One recent example is Proposal 22, a $ 200 million initiative by carpooling companies Uber and Lyft to prevent drivers from being classified as employees.
“That’s a bigger problem here,” said Jim Newton, a historian and public policy instructor at the University of California, Los Angeles, who wrote the biography of Governor Earl Warren and Governor Jerry Brown.
“It’s not whether Gavin Newsom won 51% or Governor Larry Elder. It’s important, but the referendum and recall of the initiative is generally aimed at curbing the impact of strong extraordinary interests. The premise came to my mind completely and is now a tool for extraordinary interests. “
Erwin Chemerinsky, a constitutional expert and dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of California, Berkeley, argued that the state recall process was unconstitutional due to the two-step nature of the process. Voters decide whether to recall the incumbent governor. Then, individually, select a successor. This allows the new governor to take office with less popular support than the old governor.