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Recall efforts rarely lead to desired result
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So you’ve heard a lot about the recall efforts underway with a pair of Manteca Unified School Board trustees.

Just what does that it entail, and what is the likelihood that it’ll end in a voting booth, putting the final decision to remove the candidate back into the hands of the voters who elected them in the first place?

According to Ballotpedia editor Nick Katers, who tracks recall efforts across the country, the out-of-the-gate flash by a committee to organize a recall always has enough momentum, it seems, to push forward, but very few have enough left in the tank to cross the finish line. 

“With plenty of recalls, people end up identifying that the judicial process is slow,” Katers said. “People start looking for a political solution as whatever it is they’re watching grinds its way through the gears. They realize at some point that they have the power to remove the people in question and that they don’t have to wait for the legal system to grind its gears. And when that happens, you run into a few different scenarios.

“Once a recall has momentum going and it’s clear that it’s going to reach the ballot, officials might resign. But some people are resolute and they’re going to mount a personal and political defense – which takes a lot of resources – in order to fight it to the end.”

But whenever the topic of a recall comes up, Katers warns that the threshold for starting one is actually pretty low.

A fight amongst members of a seated board or how somebody is perceived by the general public could be reason enough for a recall, he said, but not one that would likely hit the ballot.

And the percentage of recall efforts that actually make it to the ballot is small, and not a sure thing.

Last year there were 127 campaigns against 217 officials. Of the 27 that made it to the polling place, only 14 were actually removed from office.

Those numbers tick up slightly this last year when nine of the 12 embattled were removed from office once the public had a say. The number of elected officials being targeted also decreased.

So how hard is it to keep the momentum of a recall campaign alive?

In California, multiple checks and balances are in place to determine whether a politician is suited for recall, and the act of generating a petition takes the steam out of the process when it drags or hits a wall. That fatigue, Katers said, is a big reason that a lot of those petitions don’t ever end up succeeding and die before voters get the final say.