Adventures in Direct Democracy: The Top Ten Constitutional Lessons from the California Recall Experience
34 Pages Posted: 3 Nov 2011
Date Written: May 2004
California conducted an extraordinary exercise in self-government last fall. For the first time in the state's history, a gubernatorial recall measure qualified for a statewide general election. After a litigation roller coaster that came close to derailing the election for months, voters, on October 7, 2003, confronted a two-part ballot. The first part (Part One) asked whether Governor Gray Davis should be recalled from his four-year term (which had begun after his reelection in November 2002). The second part (Part Two) asked which candidate should replace him should he get fewer than 50% of the votes on the first question. When the votes were tallied, Davis had been ousted, and Arnold Schwarzenegger had been elected as his successor.
Legal analysts and political scientists have tried for months now to place October's experience into perspective. In the pages that follow, I too attempt to do so with respect to the myriad of constitutional questions raised by and during the recall. With all apologies to David Letterman, with whom I could never compete, here is my list of the Top Ten constitutional lessons that the episode teaches us.
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