The California recall election — deciding whether or not to remove Gov. Gavin Newsom from office — is Sept. 14. Ballots have already been mailed out, and you can vote by mail or in person — but please vote!
Go to the California Secretary of State’s page for essential California recall election information. And here’s where you can check your voter registration status.

Recall elections matter. The upcoming California recall election will determine whose concerns will be prioritized. And our communities — communities of color — must vote to make their voices heard. 

Recalls, the process by which citizens can remove elected officials from office before their term is completed, actually began as a progressive reform, intended to give more power to the people and curb corruption on a local level. The first successful recall happened in 1911, when voters removed Seattle Mayor Hiram Gill for gambling, alcoholism, and general corruption.

However, the recall process has been usurped and corrupted by well-financed interest groups who are using this system to serve their own special interests. The calculus of our democracy, while imperfect, means that the winner of the election gets to hold office for a full term – unless verified or perceived illegal activity or corruption happens. However, with a recall citizens can remove a duly elected official for almost any reason — or for no reason at all. When any political party can pay signature-gatherers to gather enough signatures to recall an official, it does serious harm to democracy, letting a well-financed few set our state’s agenda and upending the will of the people. In this case, we could see a governor that was elected with nearly two-thirds of the vote in 2018 thrown out of office and replaced by someone who receives far less than a majority of the vote.  

The California Recall Election and Communities of Color

This election marks a critical moment for California’s communities of color. As we witness a widening racial wealth gap, women overrepresented among the unemployed and underemployed, early childcare and early childhood education reserved for the privileged and so many important equity issues around climate, housing, education and more, voting is one of the most vital and critical ways to advance effective democracy and just policy. But a deadly combination of recalls and voter suppression are escalating rapidly to control and consolidate the power of White men. Notably, the highest percentages of registered voters signing petitions supporting the recall effort were found in rural, conservative-leaning — and predominantly White — counties, particularly in northern California and in the Sierra Nevada area.

We remember that voting rights were not given to communities of color, but were hard fought and demanded by us.

The 15th Amendment to the United States Constitution, ratified on February 3, 1870, guaranteed African-American men the right to vote and said the right to vote could not be denied to anyone based on a person’s race — African American women weren’t extended this right until 1920, and Native Americans until 1924 — yet substantial barriers remained. While the Voting Rights Act of 1965 secured critical protections for communities of color to vote, in 2013 the U.S. Supreme Court reversed critical provisions of the act.  

Recently, more than 400 anti-voter bills have been introduced in 48 states. These bills intentionally erect unnecessary barriers for people to register to vote, vote by mail, or vote in person. Meanwhile, Congress struggles to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, which would start to undo some of the damage. 

We strongly urge you to mail in your California recall election ballot or vote in person by Sept. 14. The future of California and our communities demands that we raise our voices now. You have the opportunity to choose California’s future and whether an equity agenda is possible. There is truly too much at stake to sit this one out. 

Debra Gore-Mann is Greenlining’s President and CEO.