A second effort to force Los Angeles County Dist. Atty. George Gascón into a recall election fizzled out Monday after officials determined the campaign to boot him from office failed to gain enough valid signatures.
To force Gascón into a recall race, the campaign seeking his ouster needed to gather 566,857 valid signatures by mid-July, a figure reflecting 10% of the people eligible to vote in the election cycle when Gascón won office in November 2020. The L.A. County Registrar’s office said Monday that only about 520,000 of the signatures submitted were valid.
While the campaign actually submitted roughly 715,000 signatures, a number were inevitably going to be disqualified if they were signed by people who were not properly registered to vote in L.A. County or if a registered voter’s signature didn’t match the one on file with the county Registrar.
In California, most recall drives see between 20% and 30% of collected signatures disqualified, according to Joshua Spivak, an expert on recall elections and senior research fellow at UC Berkeley Law School’s California Constitution Center.
The recall campaign also sought signatures through a mass-mailing blitz in recent months, which some observers expressed concern might lead to more disqualifications.
Gascón has faced relentless criticism from law enforcement and business leaders since his election. Many were quick to blame his reform-minded policies for rising crime in Los Angeles, despite the fact that similar surges in violence have happened in California cities with traditional law-and-order prosecutors.
Gascón’s moves to severely limit when prosecutors can try juveniles as adults or seek life sentences have also stoked the ire of victims rights groups and have left him in untenable positions in a number of high-profile cases. In the case of Hannah Tubbs — a 26-year-old transgender woman who sexually assaulted a child — Gascón’s policy allowed her to receive a short sentence in juvenile court because she was 17 when the crime occurred. The case garnered national outrage and has haunted the district attorney for months.
An initial attempt to recall Gascón last year failed miserably, largely due to a lack of fundraising and organization.
But a second effort launched late last year raised millions of dollars and drew support from a wide swath of police unions and politicians, including Los Angeles mayoral candidate Rick Caruso.
And with Bay Area voters recalling San Francisco Dist. Atty. Chesa Boudin in June, Gascón seemed at risk of facing a similar fate. Gascón served as San Francisco’s top prosecutor, and Boudin — a former public defender — was his successor in the post.
But the recall campaign’s own fortunes muddied in recent months. In mid-July, the Registrar’s office performed verification tests on a batch of 28,000 signatures collected by the campaign and counted only 78% of those signatures as valid. If that verification rate was applied to the entire petition effort, the recall would have failed.
In early August, recall organizers began arguing that the review process was unfair. Former Deputy Dist. Atty. Marian Thompson, who has a background in election law, sent a letter to the L.A. County Board of Supervisors claiming the Registrar’s office was using out-of-date processes to verify signatures. She complained that they had been barred from sending observers to monitor the verification process.
Thompson also described the 22% rejection rate as “shockingly large,” even though San Francisco election officials rejected roughly 34% of all petitions submitted during the process that led to Boudin’s recall, according to Spivak.
In a statement, L.A. County Registrar Dean Logan dismissed Thompson’s letter, denied officials were using outdated training materials and noted that the California Election Code did not give recall organizers any legal right to monitor the verification process.
Meanwhile, the firm hired to gather signatures for the recall campaign also filed a lawsuit in July, alleging the campaign owed it at least a half million dollars. A spokesman for the recall dismissed the suit as “frivolous.”
This is a breaking news story and will be updated.