Alameda County Recall Election Already Complicated by Supervisor Plan to Change Recall Rules that Both Sides Oppose

By The Vanguard Staff

OAKLAND, CA – The Alameda County District Attorney is facing a recall  here, but the Alameda County Board of Supervisors’ proposed changes to the county’s recall rules seems to have everyone on both sides of the recall saying that it’s a bad idea, according to a story in the Mercury News.

The newspaper writes neither side of that battle is happy with it, with Price’s backers charging the “new rules create confusion and complicate their campaign,” and “allows people from out of the county to collect the signatures necessary to trigger a recall election, which they oppose.”

And, adds the Mercury News, “government accountability advocates are unhappy with the charter changes because they believe they will prevent recall efforts against unelected county officials — under the county’s current rules, both elected and unelected officials can be recalled.”

Others believe voters will likely defeat the measure.

Despite all this, the board voted 3-2 Tuesday to “pass the proposed changes and initiate a special election that will put that question to voters in a March election — whether that would be the primary or a special election has not been decided,” wrote the Mercury News.

“I just want to state for the record that I view this as a parallel process, I don’t view this as an interference with the (Price) recall election,” said Supervisor Elisa Marquez prior to the vote. “What we’re doing today is putting the question on the ballot. It is up to the voters to decide if they agree with this, or that they don’t.”

The Mercury News said the issue came up in October, when county counsel Donna Ziegler presented a report contending current law was impractical and used outdated language, recommending replacing the county’s language with the state’s recall procedures.

The Mercury News writes, “That prompted outrage from groups in the midst of pursuing a recall effort against Price, the reform-minded district attorney who has been criticized for ethical concerns and her approach to sentencing.

“Next, critics of the recall changes raised the concern that a proposed amendment would protect appointed county officials, such as the county counsel, from a recall campaign. That cudgel, although infrequently used, would disappear under the revised language.”

The Mercury News added, “Price’s campaign attorney said the recall change would eliminate the requirement that those circulating recall petitions must be registered voters in the county. SAFE, a coalition of residents intent on recalling Price, said that the board must “respect the democratic process” and commit to sticking with the current rules.”

Joshua Spivak, a senior research fellow at Berkeley Law’s California Constitution Center and the author of a book on recall elections, said the amendment process should have been more precise, rather than a complete replacement of the current language with state procedures, to address outdated or problematic language.

“This is not the moment to be playing around, when you have your first actual serious recall campaign going on,” Spivak said. “You’re definitely setting yourself up to fail.”

The Mercury News noted Spivak believes “voters are unafraid to oppose ballot measures such as these, especially ones that have faced so much blowback,” echoed Tuesday by Supervisor Nate Miley who had concerns enough to oppose the recall changes, charging valid or invalid, the criticisms will make voters wary of the ballot measure. 

“I could be wrong, and if I’m wrong, I’m wrong. But if I’m right, the public is going to vote down the charter amendment. I don’t think that’s in the public good,” Miley said, according to the Mercury News.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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