Number of recall efforts soars to highest level since 2012

Ballotpedia tracked more recall efforts this year than any other year since we started compiling data on recalls in 2012. We identified 529 officials targeted for recall in 2021, compared to 301 in 2020 and 233 in 2019. The year with the second-most recalls was 2014 with 387 officials targeted for recall.

Despite the increase in recall efforts, there were fewer officials successfully removed from office in 2021 than any other year since 2012. Twenty-five recall efforts were successful in 2021, compared to 35 in 2020 and 38 in 2019. Meanwhile, 42 recalls were defeated in 2021, and 342 recalls did not qualify for the ballot.

For the first time since Ballotpedia began tracking, school board members drew more recall petitions than any other type of office. A total of 233 school board members faced recall campaigns, while city council members faced the second-most with 148. City council members drew the most recall petitions from 2014 to 2020. 

California led the way in officials targeted for recall with 129 in 2021. Arizona and Michigan followed with 51 officials each. From 2016 to 2020, California had the most officials targeted in four of the five years. When the number of recalls is adjusted for state population, Nebraska emerges as the recall leader in 2021 with 1.33 officials included in recall efforts per 100,000 residents. 

Ballotpedia closely followed several notable recalls in 2021. These include the recall election for California Governor Gavin Newsom (D), two recall efforts against San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, and the recall election for Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. Our year-end report also highlights school board recalls in the Loudon County Public School District in Virginia, the Mequon-Thiensville School District in Wisconsin, and the San Francisco Unified School District in California.