Please Remember, Just Don’t Recall

With the close of the recall efforts last week on both Culver City’s Daniel Lee and Alex Fisch, as well as Los Angeles City Council member Mike Bonin, there is a lingering question; was it that people did not want to remove the politicians, or that people object to the recall process itself? 

While the recall against Bonin has no direct effect on Culver City – he is a Los Angeles official – the heavily promoted effort fell short. According to the Santa Monica Mirror, the recall collected 39,188 signatures, [that’s] 11,847 more than required, reflecting around 21% of the district’s eligible voter base. A recall in Los Angeles required 15% of the registered voters in the district. But the use of paid signature gatherers hurt rather than helped – thousands of those signatures were invalid. Many who signed were not registered to vote, or had signed the petition multiple times.

I confess I’m thunderstruck that anyone is not registered to vote, but that’s just me. 

And this was the second recall effort against Bonin. Obviously, the first one failed, too. 

The organization that led the recall against Culver City Council member Alex Fisch and Mayor Daniel Lee did not turn in the petitions, so we have no data on how many signatures were collected locally. Since the petition was circulated by volunteers, we can assume they did a better job of explaining why they felt the recall was needed, and were probably more discerning than someone getting paid to get names on a sheet of paper. Still, they did not succeed. We can conclude that less than 20% of Culver City’s voters signed. 

Why does LA need 15% and CC need 20%? The laws regarding recall differentiate the size of the city, and the population. 

The shadow of the state recall against Governor Gavin Newsom must have cast some influence on how people reacted to either or both of these efforts. That Newsom beat the recall by a huge margin was seen at the time as being a sign that recalls were being overused. 

Bonin described it as “a wasteful, distracting abuse of the electoral process,” and many in Culver City have agreed. Culver City Crossroads received multiple comments from people who turned down the petition specifically because both of these seats are up for election in November anyway.

While a recall is still a legally available measure for unhappy voters to remove an elected official, it now seems a mechanism for declaring defeat ahead of the contest. Rather than pull a politician out ahead of their scheduled term, it looks like a way for the disgruntled to spotlight that they are in the minority. This gives everyone who has been recalled a pretty easy ‘leg up’ on their next election campaign. 

Or does it just clarify that the recall is a tool too weak to accomplish what it purports to do? 

It seems elections should stay within the agreed upon time-frame, and the idea of a ‘do-over’ is set aside. By all recent examples, it’s ineffective, inefficient, and takes away resources that are better spent elsewhere. 

Next time you are unhappy with an elected official, file the papers to run for office. 

We know that one often works. 

Judith Martin-Straw

The Actors' Gang

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