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Tuesday, October 07, 2003
So today is the big day on the Left Coast. Recall day in Collyvornia.

Regardless of the outcome of the vote, I think California politics will suffer from this for a long time. And maybe other states as well, if there are similar provisions in their laws. (The US Constitution thankfully has no analogous provisions. Short of death or resignation, you either impeach and convict the office holder or he serves his full term.)

As I understand it, the recall provisions have been part of the California Constitution for almost 100 years, and that recall petition drives have been mounted about three or four times since then, all of which, except the current one, were unsuccessful in obtaining the required number of signatures. For the foreseeable future, I think every California governor will at least have to deal with a recall petition, and quite possibly a recall vote (given the numbers required).

There are a couple of reasons for that conclusion.

First, the math involved. For a recall petition to be placed on the ballot, the petition must be signed by twelve percent of the number of people who voted in the previous election (spread out over a minimum number of counties). That means that unless the candidate achieves a Cuban (or pre-war Iraqi) type majority, just the people who voted against him can easily trigger a ballot vote.

Next, technology. Gathering those petition signatures used to be a huge task. Damn near impossible to do in any reasonable amount of time in a large state like California. Not anymore. Now we've been shown how its done.

And last but not least, revenge. The justification for the next recall will be"They started it." And, true enough, "they" did. (I had nothing to do with it. Really!) What one thinks of the motives behind the current recall (stealing an election or ousting an incompetent) will be completely irrelevant to the next, since the people in favor of the current recall will oppose the next one. Not that this is much of a justification. It doesn't even work too well on the playground, at least after the adults arrive.

So when James Taranto mourns the passing into history of the Gray Davis recall, I am pretty sure he is being a tad premature.

The recall provisions in the California Constitution seem alot like nuclear weapons to me. It is better to have them then not to have them. They are convenient to rattle every once in a while when things get really bad. But using them will have ugly consequences for decades.
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