If you receive the Weekly Standard, you may already have seen Glenn Ellmers's article on the recall effort against California Governor Gray Davis. Ellmers, the Claremont Institute's director of research, explains how the recall is one of the direct democracy measures, along with the initiative and the referendum, cooked up the Progressives about 100 years ago. In theory, these devices are problematic, and certainly conflict with the Founders' idea of representative, constitutional government. But in practice, conservatives have used these measures, often successfully, to battle liberal, big governmentthe modern-day legacy of Progressivism.
Recall supporters say they have gathered over one million signatures. The law requires them to submit 898,000 to qualify the recall drive, but they have prudently planned to gather about 1.3 million, leaving a margin for error, lost petitions, etc. Now, however, a new wrinkle has emerged. Democratic Secretary of State Kevin Shelley recently instructed the county registrars (who tabulate the petitions) not to count recall petitions are they are submitted, but to wait 30 days. This instruction is based on a very dubious reading of the state constitution, which will likely be challenged in court.
Time is of the essence for the recall backers, because if the verification of the signatures can be pushed back into August, the recall vote will be placed on the March 2004 primary ballot, instead of in a special election this Fall. Such a scenario would be of enormous advantage to Davis: the presidential primary vote in March will draw heavy Democratic turnoutpresumably favoring Davis's chances of defeating the recall.
All this is just the tip of the iceberg in this fascinating political drama. For up-to-the-minute news on the recall effort, we encourage you to visit our friends over at www.californiarepublic.org.