Newsom recall challenged in California appeals court

A poster in Yorba Linda from the supporters of the recall campaign against Gavin Newsom. (Photo: Matt Gush, via Shutterstock)

A Sacramento-area resident has challenged the legitimacy of the recall drive against Gov. Gavin Newsom, telling a state appellate court that a Superior Court judge violated the California constitution when he gave recall proponents more time to gather voter signatures.

The appeal, filed Monday with the 3rd District Court of Appeals in San Francisco, said Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James Arguelles violated a voter-approved constitutional amendment that limits signature gathering to 160 days to qualify an initiative for the ballot.

The filing asks the justices to block the recall until the court rules on the issue.

The law has been on the books for nearly 45 years as Proposition 14 of 1976.

In November, Arguelles gave recall proponents a 120-day extension to gather the necessary 1,495,709 valid signatures to get the measure on the statewide ballot. At the time of his ruling, recall backers had collected only about 700,000 valid signatures. Citing the COVID-19 pandemic, they told Arguelles that they couldn’t meet the 160-day deadline set in state law.

In March, they reported gathering sufficient signatures to make the ballot.

On April 26, Secretary of State Shirley Weber said the recall proponents had gathered 1,626,042 signatures — which would be enough to qualify the recall for the ballot if other reviews and analyses are completed by state and local authorities. If it survives those reviews, the recall election could take place in November.

But altering the signature-gathering time requires an amendment to the state constitution and can’t be decided by a court, the appeal alleges.

“The 160-day provision enacted by the voters in June 1976 by Proposition 14 remains the
law of the land …,” wrote Carmichael resident Karen Fletcher, who urged the appellate court to  block the recall election. Fletcher, a legal activist, is the long-time companion of Howard Herships, who waged a lengthy fight against the fees and penalties of California’s red-light camera laws.

‘It is only by a ballot measure that the 160-day provision can be enlarged or changed,” Fletcher added.

She noted that Newsom’s opponents had tried five times previously — all before the onset of the pandemic — but failed to gather a sufficient number of signatures to make the ballot for a recall election.

There was no immediate comment from the recall campaign.

Arguelles, appointed to the bench by then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, was named by former President Donald Trump in June 2020 to the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District in Sacramento. The U.S. Senate adjourned, however, before taking up the appointment; Arguelles remains on the county Superior Court bench.

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