Tuesday, July 22, 2003

Because I used to live in California (1990-93), the whole Gray Davis recall hoohah has me a bit interested. Nathan Newman has noticed, by way of a Dan Walters column in the Sacramento Bee, that there's a bit of ambiguity in the Constitution about who succeeds Gray Davis in case he is recalled.. Here's what we do know from California's Constitution (search under "recall" or "election"):

1) The Lt. Gov. becomes Gov. when the Gov. seat is vacant. (Art. 5, Sec. 10)
2) An election to determine whether to recall an officer and, if appropriate, to elect a successor shall be called by the Governor and held not less than 60 days nor more than 80 days from the date of certification of sufficient signatures. (Art. 2, Sec. 15a)
3) If the Gov. is the target of the recall petition, the Lt. Gov. has to call for the election. (Art. 2, Sec. 17)

The ambiguity centers around the phrase, "if appropriate." Walters pointed out that the Governor is the only officeholder in which a particular successor is explicitly named in case of a vacancy, namely the Lt. Governor. Therefore, the election to name a successor may not be appropriate. A subsequent SacBee editorial says that the "if appropriate" language was inserted in 1974, and proponents and opponents alike felt it would have no effect on elections. To quote the SacBee:

Election law experts say the "if appropriate" language appears to deal with recalls of appellate judges, who are not elected and are therefore replaced by appointment.
I erred in Nathan Newman's comment section when I said that California's appellate jobs are not elective office; they are, and vacancies can be filled by the Governor. Therefore, it isn't appropriate to call for an election for the successor at the same time as the recall. That is, the Constitution provides for appellate judges' successors in case of vacancy due to recall or whatever. Well, California's Constitution also provides for a successor to the Governor in case of vacancy, so it can be argued that an election for a successor is not appropriate.

My conclusion is that whoever wrote that language that the voters agreed to in 1974 meant it for appellate judges and didn't envision a recall of the Governor. Unintended consequences, that is. Here's an unintended consequence of this whole thing: Darrell Issa's (R-car alarm) $30 million may simply have the effect of putting the first Latino into the Governorship of the largest state in th union. To this Dem, that sounds simply delicious.

For a less ambiguous recall method, here's Arizona's section regarding the recall election. (Remember that Evan Mecham (R-silly) was ousted this way).

Unless the incumbent otherwise requests, in writing, the incumbent's name shall be placed as a candidate on the official ballot without nomination. Other candidates for the office may be nominated to be voted for at said election. The candidate who receives the highest number of votes shall be declared elected for the remainder of the term. Unless the incumbent receives the highest number of votes, the incumbent shall be deemed to be removed from office, upon qualification of the successor. In the event that the successor shall not qualify within five days after the result of said election shall have been declared, the said office shall be vacant, and may be filled as provided by law. (Article 8, Part 1, Section 4)

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