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Recall of Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price Qualifies for a Vote

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Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price was in office less than six months before the recall campaign was launched against her. (Lea Suzuki/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The recall campaign against Alameda County District Attorney Pamela Price submitted enough valid signatures to qualify for an election, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters announced Monday. The Alameda County Board of Supervisors will decide when to hold a recall election.

Save Alameda for Everyone, or SAFE, submitted 123,374 signatures supporting the recall to the registrar’s office on March 4. SAFE began organizing its campaign less than six months after Price took office and claims the progressive reforms Price is carrying out are decreasing public safety. Price supporters say the reforms are essential to creating a more fair justice system and argue increases in crime are more directly linked to underlying social conditions, like poverty and mental health.

The registrar found that 74,757 of the signatures met the validation requirements, surpassing the county’s 73,195 threshold. Almost 49,000 signatures were invalidated. The registrar will present the results to the supervisors on April 30.

The results come after the registrar decided in March to complete a manual review of the signatures after a sample review did not conclusively find that the collected signatures met the required amount to qualify.

The Board of Supervisors is required by state law to decide an election date within 14 days of the registrar completing their count. If the supervisors fail to select a date, county election officials will have five days to choose.

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Recall supporters have asked for an election to be held as soon as possible. It’s unclear whether the supervisors will apply county or state guidelines in deciding when to hold a recall election. Alameda County voters approved the county’s adoption of state recall rules in March after the registrar began tabulating signatures.

State guidelines require recall elections to be scheduled between 88 and 125 calendar days from the registrar’s announcement. This would land an election in July or August.

Under county rules, an election must be held within 35 to 40 days from the announcement but does not specify business days or calendar days. Depending on how the supervisors interpret the charter, county rules could land an election as early as May or as late as July.

Recall opponents have said they would prefer a recall election to occur in November, citing experts who say general elections tend to draw a larger turnout and produce more progressive results.

State rules allow recall elections to be scheduled up to 180 days in the future if it can be consolidated with a regularly scheduled election. This is designed to save money. The registrar estimates a special election could cost around $20 million.

Short of suing the county and delaying the election scheduling with a protracted court battle, a Price recall election that coincides with November’s presidential election is unlikely.

Joshua Spivak, a recall expert and senior research fellow at the California Constitution Center at Berkeley Law, said the conventional wisdom about higher turnout in general elections may not apply to recalls. He pointed to the recalls of three state governors — Gavin Newsom and Gray Davis in California, Scott Walker in Wisconsin — all saw greater turnout in the special elections.

“If it’s like a ‘who cares’ election and you know who’s going to win, the turnout is going to be low,” Spivak told KQED. “If a lot of people are paying attention, then turnout may be high.”

Ultimately, the outcome of a Price recall may have more to do with whether enough people pay attention to the issue rather than when an election is held.

Money to host campaign events and run ads is necessary to gain people’s attention. This is where the recall campaign, funded primarily by wealthy real estate investors, has the upper hand. As of the last campaign filing at the end of January, recall supporters had more than $400,000 in the bank. Price’s Protect the Win campaign is so low on cash that it let the contract with its campaign manager expire. The campaign had under $50,000 in January.

Recalls that make it to the ballot tend to be successful, Spivak said.

“The challenge is getting to the ballot. If they get to the ballot, about 61% of recalls nationwide result in removal, and another 6% result in resignation,” he added. “So you’re talking two-thirds of the time.”

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