A federal judge rejected a request to do away with or amend California Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall or allow his name to be added to a second recall ballot question about who should replace the governor.
U.S. District Court Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald ruled the recall election process does not conflict with the “one person, one vote” clause in the U.S. Constitution’s 14th Amendment.
“There is nothing unconstitutional about placing in one ballot a vote for or against the recall of the Governor and then a vote for a replacement candidate,” Fitzgerald wrote (pdf) in a recent ruling. Attorneys for plaintiffs who were not affiliated with Newsom appealed the judge’s decision to the 9th Circuit Court on Aug. 27.
The recall ballot asks two questions about whether Newsom, a Democrat, should be ousted, and who should replace him. If the majority votes on the first question to recall Newsom, then the individual who got the highest number of votes on the second question would then become governor.
If Newsom gets only 49 percent support in the first question, he will be recalled. If the second candidate wins less than 50 percent of the overall vote, that individual will become governor of California.
There are 46 candidates on the recall ballot. The 2003 California recall election saw former Gov. Gray Davis replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger from a field of 135 candidates.
“Plaintiff plainly feels disgruntled that a replacement candidate with a small plurality might replace a sitting governor who, based on a robust ‘No’ vote, might well have beaten that same replacement candidate in a general election,” Fitzgerald also wrote, adding that the plaintiffs’ rights were “not violated” and said that halting the election before the Sept. 14 deadline would be unfair to voters.
“As that may be,” he wrote, “such disgruntlement raises no federal constitutional issues and certainly does not give the federal judiciary the right to halt the mammoth undertaking of this gubernatorial recall election.”
In a statement last week, a spokesperson for California Secretary of State Shirley Weber said they agree and accept the judge’s ruling. The office said that it will not appeal the ruling and will continue to assist county officials with the recall election.
Lawyers for California Attorney General Rob Bonta’s office, who represented Weber’s office, filed arguments defending the recall law and opposing the plaintiffs’ lawsuit. Both Weber and Bonta were appointed by Newsom.
“The court should not interfere with the ongoing recall election at this late stage,” lawyers from Bonta’s office said last week in a filing.