Endorsement: Proposition C is a smart reform for San Francisco’s recall election process

S.F. voters should vote yes on C to tighten rules for costly recall elections

by The Examiner Editorial Board

The power of voters to recall their elected leaders from office is an important tool that allows them to hold their leaders accountable. But San Francisco’s current recall rules are also ripe for political abuse and the gross waste of taxpayer dollars.

Proposition C will reform The City’s rules for recall elections in order to prevent abuse and waste. It would ban a political official from being recalled during their first or last year in office. Under the current system, sore losers can use recalls to punish winning candidates who must fend off recall threats before they’re even sworn into office.

In addition, recall campaigns during the final year of an elected official’s term are simply wastes of money, since the best time to hold most politicians accountable is during a regularly scheduled election.

Prop. C would change the rules to ensure that voters – rather than the mayor – have the most power over who occupies the vacated office of a recalled leader. It would do this by barring the people appointed to replace a recalled leader from running in the following election. This would prevent the mayor – or, in cases where a mayor was recalled, the Board of Supervisors – from stacking the deck in favor of a preferred candidate. Instead, the next election would be a jump ball for candidates who would need to make the case to voters without the advantages of incumbency.

Opponents of Prop. C point out that this year’s San Francisco Unified School District Board of Education recall election would not have been possible under the changes now proposed. The Examiner Editorial Board endorsed the recall of the three school board members whose incompetence and failure had done active harm to The City’s children. But the school board recall is over and done with, and hypothetical arguments about the past should not prevent smart reforms aimed at the future.

Prop. C’s opponents also point out that recalls have been relatively rare, and they say restricting the time frame for recalls will hurt grassroots recall campaigns. Given the recent trend toward recall elections, however, it’s wise to pursue reforms designed to prevent wasteful election spending, shore up the stability of our political system and give the people more power to decide their leadership through a fair democratic process.

In the aftermath of last year’s $200 million recall debacle targeting Gov. Gavin Newsom, the California State Legislature is also examining ways to reform the state’s recall process and inoculate it from being hijacked by partisan groups far out of touch with the state’s voters. As this Editorial Board stated when rejecting the Newsom recall, there’s no reason why a tiny fraction of the state’s voters should be able to force us to spend hundreds of millions of taxpayer dollars on a temper tantrum.

If passed, Prop. C could have an immediate impact on The City’s next district attorney. If DA Chesa Boudin gets recalled by Prop. H, Mayor London Breed’s pick to replace him would only be a temporary placeholder. Anyone who wanted to win election as San Francisco’s next DA would have to file to run in November. One candidate, Joe Alioto Veronese, has already declared his intention to run for DA in 2023 – or this fall if the position becomes vacant.

An open competition with a level playing field is always the best deal for voters. Prop. C is a smart reform that respects the right of voters to recall their leaders while also helping to protect our democracy from destructive and wasteful political games.

The Examiner Editorial Board urges a yes vote on Prop. C.

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