New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell Challenges Lowered Signature Requirement in Recall Effort

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell (D) filed two lawsuits on March 14, 2023, to challenge a consent judgment that was agreed upon by Louisiana Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin (R) and the organizers of the recall effort against Cantrell. The consent judgment, announced by Ardoin on March 1, 2023, revises the number of registered voters in the Orleans Parish down to 224,876 for the purpose of the recall effort. That lowers the requirement to put the recall election on the ballot to 44,975 signatures, down from 49,975.

Cantrell’s attorneys argue in the first lawsuit, filed with the Orleans Parish Civil District Court, that Ardoin lacked the authority to retroactively lower the signature threshold for a recall petition that had already been submitted. The lawsuit also states that Orleans Parish Civil District Court Judge Jennifer Medley, who approved the consent judgment, had a vested interest in the outcome of the litigation, based on reports that Medley was a signatory to the recall petition.

Cantrell also filed a petition with the 19th Judicial District Court for East Baton Rouge Parish seeking a Writ of Mandamus against Ardoin. If approved, that court order would direct Ardoin to show by what authority he negotiated the consent judgment.

The signature requirement for recalls in Louisiana is based on the number of people in the recall target’s district. For districts of 100,000 eligible voters or more, signatures equal to 20% of eligible voters are needed. Completed petitions must be submitted within 180 days of being filed with the Louisiana Secretary of State. Once signatures are handed in, the registrar of voters has 20 working days to certify the recall petition. If enough signatures are certified by the registrar of voters, the petition is forwarded to the governor who has 15 days to issue an election proclamation.

When petitioners began gathering signatures in August 2022, the signature requirement was expected to be 53,353. The number of required signatures was adjusted to 49,975 after a recalculation of registered voters in the parish. On February 16, recall organizers filed a lawsuit, contending that 30,000 voters have relocated from the parish and should be excluded from the voter rolls. With the consent judgment in place, the signature requirement for the recall effort against Cantrell was modified without the need to purge any names from the voter rolls.

Recall organizers said that more than 49,000 signatures were submitted by the deadline on February 22, 2023. Orleans Parish Registrar of Voters Sandra Wilson has until March 22, 2023, to verify the signatures.

The recall effort was initiated by New Orleans residents Eileen Carter and Belden Batiste. Petitions listed Cantrell’s “failure to put New Orleans first and execute responsibilities of the position” as the reason for recall. Carter has highlighted an increase in crime rates, deteriorating infrastructure, and a lack of interaction between Cantrell and city officials.

Cantrell responded to the recall effort during an interview with WGNO. She said, “I’ve chosen to do the hard things. That doesn’t mean that comes without the ability to please everyone. I cannot do that. I strive to but I cannot but I choose to do the hard things. I continue to make history around here.”

Additional reading:

2022 sees second-highest level of recall activity since Ballotpedia began tracking

In 2022, Ballotpedia tracked 247 recall efforts against 414 officials. This is the second-highest number of recall efforts since Ballotpedia began tracking this statistic in 2014. Only 2021 had more recall activity—with 357 recall efforts against 545 officials.

Michigan was the state with the most officials facing recall efforts for the second time since Ballotpedia began tracking this figure. Michigan saw 125 officials subject to a recall campaign, surpassing California, which had 68 officials subject to recall. From 2016 to 2021, California had the most officials subject to recall in five of the six years.

City council members drew more recall petitions than any other type of officeholder in 2022. City council members took the top spot from 2016 until 2021, when school board members were most likely to face a recall campaign.

Since 2020, Ballotpedia has tracked recalls related to government responses to the pandemic. Ballotpedia identified 34 such campaigns this year, or about 14% of recall efforts. This represents a decline from 2020 and 2021, when 37% of the recall efforts Ballotpedia tracked were related to the pandemic.

Notable recalls across 2022 included the following:

  • An effort to recall George Gascón from his position as the Los Angeles County District Attorney did not qualify for the ballot, after organizers fell short of submitting the 566,857 signatures that were required for an election to be scheduled. Recall supporters criticized Gascón for his policies towards recidivist violent offenders and reduced sentences for committers of certain violent crimes.
  • Recall organizers filed a notice of intent to recall Los Angeles City Councilman Kevin de León in October 2022. The petition cited de León’s participation in an October 2021 meeting in which, according to organizers, de León made racist comments about Councilman Mike Bonin’s son. De León apologized for his participation in the meeting but said he would not resign.
  • Organizers initiated an attempt to recall Colorado state Sen. Kevin Priola (D), after he switched his party affiliation from Republican to Democratic in August 2022. Proponents of the recall effort criticized Priola over his support of a gas tax and legislation that would provide safe injection sites for drug users. They did not mention the party switch in the recall petition.
  • An effort to recall three of the seven members of the Salem-Keizer Public Schools school board in Oregon did not qualify for the ballot after organizers did not turn in the required number of signatures by the November 2022 deadline. The effort began after the school board voted 4-3 to approve a resolution prohibiting concealed guns on school property.

    Editor’s note: a previous version of this story erroneously reported that Michigan saw 123 officials subject to a recall campaign. It has been corrected to reflect that 125 officials in Michigan were subject to a recall campaign.

Ballotpedia’s mid-year recall report shows sustained interest in school board recall

In the first half of 2022, Ballotpedia tracked 152 recall efforts against 240 officials. These figures represent a small decline from 2021, when we tallied 165 recall efforts against 263 officials by midyear. In comparison, the highest number of recall efforts we have tracked by midyear was 189 in 2016. The lowest was 72 in 2019.

For the second year in a row, school board members drew more recall petitions than any other group. One-third of officials who faced recall campaigns in the first half of 2022 were school board members. City council members—the officials who drew the most efforts from 2016 to 2020—accounted for 32% of officials targeted for recall in 2022. 

For the first time since Ballotpedia started tracking this statistic in 2015, Michigan was the state with the most officials facing recall efforts in the first half of the year. Michigan saw 70 officials subject to a recall campaign, surpassing California, which had the most officials targeted for recall midway through the year from 2015 through 2021. 

In 2020, Ballotpedia began following recalls related to coronavirus and government responses to it. We have tallied 245 such efforts since 2020, including 27 efforts against 66 officials in the first half of 2022.

In this report, Ballotpedia also highlighted five noteworthy recall campaigns: the effort against Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D), the effort against San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin (D), the effort against County Commissioner William Bunek (R) in Leelanau County, Michigan, and the efforts against members of the San Francisco school board in California and the Newberg school board in Oregon.

Additional reading:

San Francisco voters recall District Attorney Chesa Boudin

San Francisco voters recalled District Attorney Chesa Boudin on June 7, 2022. Mayor London Breed will appoint a temporary replacement, who will serve until voters elect a permanent district attorney in November.

Boudin was elected district attorney in 2019, defeating Suzy Loftus 50.8% to 49.2% in a ranked-choice voting election. Previously, Boudin served as deputy public defender in the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office. He earned a bachelor’s and a law degree from Yale University and a master’s degree from Oxford University in England.

Supporters alleged Boudin’s approach to crime led to increased crime rates. Boudin said his goal had been reforming the criminal justice system and that the recall was politically motivated. In his statement of defense, Boudin said reform was needed because “the old approaches did not make us safer; they ignored root causes of crime and perpetuated mass incarceration.”

A group called San Franciscans for Public Safety started the recall effort on April 28, 2021. According to The San Francisco Examiner, the effort was led by a pair of Democratic activists “seeking to prevent the recall effort against District Attorney Chesa Boudin from being framed as a conservative power grab.” Organizers had until October 25, 2021, to gather a minimum of 51,325 signatures in order to qualify the recall for the ballot. Supporters submitted approximately 83,000 signatures. Director of Elections John Arntz announced on November 9, 2021, that there were enough valid signatures to put the recall election on the ballot.

The Notice of Intent that recall supporters published said, “Boudin is not keeping San Francisco safe. He refuses to adequately prosecute criminals and fails to take the drug dealing crisis seriously. He doesn’t hold serial offenders accountable, getting them released from custody, and his response to victims is that “hopefully” home burglaries will go down…Recalling someone shouldn’t be taken lightly, but San Francisco can’t wait two more years to improve public safety and fix our criminal justice system. Chesa Boudin must go — now.”

Boudin’s statement of defense said, “This is yet another recall relying on FALSE AND DISPROVEN REPUBLICAN talking points attempting to undo progress and take us backwards. Recalls are not political tools for people who lose elections. Voters thoughtfully and carefully elected DA Boudin because they support his work to reform an unjust system that too often criminalized poverty, addiction, and mental illness; failed to hold violent police accountable; and targeted people of color…DA Boudin is COMMITTED TO PUBLIC SAFETY, and to reforming the criminal justice system to provide safety, justice, and fairness for all San Franciscans.”

The San Franciscans for Public Safety’s recall effort was one of two initiated against Boudin in 2021. The first was started by Richie Greenberg, who previously ran for mayor as a Republican. The effort failed because organizers did not succeed in collecting 51,325 valid signatures by the deadline.

The Boudin recall was the second one to take place against a San Francisco elected official in 2022. In February, a majority of voters cast ballots in favor of recalling San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education members Gabriela López, Alison Collins, and Faauuga Moliga.

Before this year’s recall of San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education members, then-Mayor Dianne Feinstein was the last elected official in the city to face a recall election—in 1983. Feinstein survived the recall with 81% of the vote in her favor.

Additional reading:

Oregon fire district board member recalled with 51.1% of the vote

In Washington County, Oregon, Banks Fire District #13 board members Mark Schmidlin and Ed Ewing faced a recall election on April 12, 2022. Schmidlin was recalled with 51.1% of votes cast in favor of the recall. Ewing retained his seat with 52.4% of votes cast against the recall. Schmidlin’s seat will be filled via a vote by the remaining board members. 

The recall effort was led by Jacoba Kemper. The recall petition stated that the two board members failed to properly investigate harassment accusations against Chief Rodney Linz. Recall supporters gathered 513 signatures in support of recalling Ewing and 537 signatures in support of recalling Schmidlin. The threshold to send the recall to a vote was 449 signatures.

There have been four recall efforts against six special district board members in 2022. Of those, one recall was approved, one was defeated, three did not go to a vote, and one is underway. 

Between January and June of 2021, 10 special district members were targets of recall efforts. 

Additional reading:

Michigan county commissioner recall results in party control flip

William Bunek (R) was removed as Leelanau County Commissioner in Michigan through a recall election on May 3, 2022. Bunek lost the seat with 55% of votes cast in favor of the recall. Lois Bahle (D) was elected as the replacement candidate in tandem with the recall. Bahle’s election switched the board majority from Republican to Democratic. 

Recall supporters criticized Bunek for statements he made in a county board meeting on Sept. 14, 2021. In that meeting, Bunek and three other Republicans on the board recommended zeroing out the Early Childhood Services millage passed by voters in Nov. 2019. According to the Traverse City Record Eagle, “Bunek at that time said the United States is a constitutional republic and when voters make a wrong decision, the county board is there to make sure that it doesn’t go on.” Before the recall, Bunek held the seat for 14 years.

Bunek appealed the factual nature of the recall petition in the 13th Circuit Court, stating that he felt his statements were misrepresented. The appeal was denied and recall supporters were able to gather 663 signatures to send the recall to a vote. 

There have been 15 recall efforts against 33 county commissioners in 2022. Of those, nine are underway, 19 did not go to a vote, one resulted in a resignation, two were approved, one was defeated, and one is on the ballot in May 2022.

There have already been more recall efforts against county commissioners in 2022 than in the first half of 2021. Between January and June of 2021, 12 county commissioners were targets of recall efforts. As of May 9, 2022, 33 county commissioners had been the targets of recall efforts. 

Additional reading:

Oregon county recall defeated in March 22 vote

In Oregon, Yamhill County Commissioner Lindsay Berschauer defeated the recall effort against her with 52.4% of the vote on March 22. Berschauer was first elected to the three-member board in 2020.

The recall effort began in Aug. 2021. Recall supporters failed to gather enough signatures during their first effort, but they launched a successful second petition effort in Nov. 2021. They submitted 7,675 signatures on Feb. 1, 2022, and the county verified enough signatures to put the recall on the ballot. 

Recall supporters accused Berschauer of “extremism, fiscal mismanagement, and bad-faith representation” in the second recall petition.

In response, Berschauer stated, “Disagreement over public policy does not warrant a recall in the minds of voters, as we just witnessed in Newberg with the failed recall attempts on school board members.”

There have been 15 recall efforts against 33 county commissioners in 2022. Of those, 10 are underway, 18 did not go to a vote, one resulted in a resignation, one was approved, one was defeated, and two are on the ballot in May 2022.

There have already been more recall efforts against county commissioners in 2022 than in the first half of 2021. Between January and June of 2021, 12 county commissioners were targets of recall efforts. As of March 24, 2022, 15 county commissioners have been the targets of recall efforts. 

Additional reading:

What’s happening with recalls so far in 2022?

So far in 2022, Ballotpedia has tracked 103 recall efforts against 177 officials. School board members saw the most recall efforts started against them in 2022, continuing a trend that started in 2021. A total of 67 school board members have been included in recall efforts this year. City council members saw the second-most with 48, and county commissioners saw the third-most with 29. City council members drew the most recall petitions from 2016 to 2020.

Recall efforts against 57 officials have been related to COVID-19 or government responses to the pandemic in 2022, which accounts for 32.2% of officials included in recall efforts. In 2021, that percentage was 39.8% of officials, and it was 29.6% of officials in 2020.

Recall elections against 14 officials have been held so far this year. The recalls against six of those officials were approved by voters, removing them from office, while eight officials had their recalls rejected, keeping them in office. Recall elections against another 10 officials are scheduled to be held between March and June 2022. 

The 24 recall elections that have been held or scheduled for the first half of 2022 are higher than the 21 recall elections that were held between January and June 2021. In the first half of that year, nine officials were removed from office in recall elections, while 12 were retained. The first half of 2020 saw recall elections against 27 officials on the ballot. Thirteen of those officials were removed from office, and 14 kept their seats.

The following recall elections are scheduled to be held in March 2022:

  • March 22: Yamhill County Commission, Oregon
  • March 29: Regional School Unit 21, Maine

Additional reading:

Voters in California and Nebraska approve school board recall elections

The San Francisco Unified School District in California and the Giltner school district in Nebraska held recall elections against a total of four school board members on Feb. 15. Voters in both school districts approved the recalls, removing the board members from office.

In San Francisco, three school board members were on the ballot: Gabriela López, Alison Collins, and Faauuga Moliga. They will be removed from office once the county has certified the election results. That is expected to happen on March 1.

Recall supporters said they were frustrated that schools in the district remained closed for nearly a year in reaction to the COVID-19 pandemic. They also said they were upset that the board had spent time voting to rename 44 buildings in the district rather than focusing on opening schools. ​​“From day one, the campaign was a campaign to get politics out of education,” Siva Raj, one of the recall petitioners and a district parent, said. “What we saw consistently was a pattern where the school board leadership focused on a lot of political stunts and symbolic gestures like trying to rename schools, and doing that ultimately badly.”

At a board meeting on April 6, members unanimously voted to rescind the approval of the renaming process. At the same meeting, they voted to return students to full-time in-person instruction at the start of the 2021-2022 school year. In reaction to the recall effort, Moliga said he stood behind his record. López characterized the recall against her as sexist, ageist, and racist. “We can’t let people scare us,” Collins said. “When I see certain people getting upset, I know I’m doing the right thing. If it’s people that have power and don’t want to share it, there’s people who want to make decisions without being inclusive, of course they are going to get upset.”

San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced her endorsement of the recall on Nov. 9. She will appoint temporary replacements for the recalled board members. The replacements will need to run for election to the board this November if they wish to remain in office. To get the recall on the ballot, supporters had to collect ​​51,325 signatures per board member by Sept. 7.

In Giltner, one school board member was on the ballot: Chris Waddle. The recall effort was started by Jamie Bendorf, a resident of Giltner, Neb. On the recall petition filing form, Bendorf wrote, “Christopher Waddle doesn’t hold the best interest of the patrons in the Giltner School District.” Bendorf also published a statement about the recall effort, saying “what concerns me the most is hearing about families who have left due to administration dismissing concerns, current GPS parents that are looking at other options for schooling out of district, or even worse the fact they are regretting sending their child or children here.”

Waddle submitted the following response to the recall petition: “We have a strong administrative team, the finest teachers and staff, the highest enrollment of students in years and the district is in a good financial position for the future […] These things happen when you have a school board with the right vision for the future. A recall under these conditions is not in the best interest of our school.”

To get the recall on the ballot, supporters had to submit 119 signatures from school district residents by Oct. 12.

Ballotpedia has tracked 26 school board recall efforts against 67 board members in 2022. Prior to the Feb. 15 recall election, four school districts held recall elections. All seven school board members who were on those recall ballots kept their seats.

In 2021, Ballotpedia covered a total of 351 recall efforts against 537 elected officials. This was the highest number of recall efforts and officials targeted since we started compiling data on recalls in 2012.

Candidates and committees in Newsom recall raised more than $142 million and spent $145.4 million

Candidates and committees raised a combined $142 million for the Sept. 14, 2021, recall election of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D), according to final campaign finance figures. In that election, voters retained Newsom as governor by a vote of 61.9% to 38.1%. Roughly 12.8 million people voted. The ballot asked voters first if they would like to recall Newsom, and then who they would like to elect in his place. Candidates and committees raised money for both questions.

The California Secretary of State required all candidates in the replacement question and committees registered in support or opposition to the recall effort to file final campaign finance reports on or before Jan. 31, 2022. Those reports became available publicly online in early February.

Republican candidates and committees registered in support of the recall raised $53.1 million, while Democratic candidates and committees registered in opposition of the recall raised $88.9 million. Spending totaled $145.4 million, with Republicans and support committees spending $53.5 million and Democrats and opposition committees spending $91.9 million.

On the recall question, committees raised $109.3 million and spent $113.5 million. The nine registered support committees raised $20.9 million and spent $22.2 million. The 20 registered opposition committees raised $88.4 million and spent $91.4 million. This fundraising figure is more than double the average amount raised for recent citizen-initiated ballot measures in California. Committees raised an average of $50.6 million supporting and opposing each of the 31 citizen-initiated measures on the ballot in California from 2016 to 2020.

On the replacement candidate question, candidates raised $32.7 million and spent $31.9 million. Republican candidates raised $32.2 million and spent $31.4 million, while Democratic candidates raised $484,497 and spent $529,659. Republicans Larry Elder ($16.8 million), John Cox ($9.4 million), Kevin Faulconer ($2.7 million), and Kevin Kiley ($1.1 million) all raised more than $1 million. Kevin Paffrath ($452,670) and Jacquelin McGowan ($31,827) were the only Democrats to report fundraising.