In a move with potentially serious implications for the recall campaign targeting District Attorney Pamela Price, the Alameda County Board of Supervisors will consider on Tuesday a measure that could overhaul how the county conducts such elections.
According to a presentation prepared for the board by the lawyer, the county charter’s current rules include unconstitutional provisions, missing procedures, and unfeasible election laws.
“In order to provide the public and the Registrar of Voters with clear and achievable standards for conducting a recall, it is recommended that your Board adopt an ordinance to amend the Charter,” reads the report signed by County Counsel Donna Ziegler.
According to Ziegler’s report, the move is necessary to align the county’s laws with the state’s and eliminate “decades old procedures” that are “a detriment to ensuring lawful, competent, and timely recalls.” The report’s rationale is organized around the possibility that the charter’s current language could be vulnerable to a lawsuit that would overturn or void a potential recall.
The ordinance, which would call a special election in March and put the question of recall reform to voters, makes no mention of the effort against Price, a reform-minded DA who has become a political lightning rod since taking office this year. She has faced perhaps the most serious recall campaign in the county’s history over allegations from victim’s rights activists and others that she has been too aggressive in eliminating sentencing enhancements and reducing other sentencing recommendations.
But to organizers of the recall effort, there is no doubt that the new ordinance targets them.
“I feel that they are trying to undermine us,” said Brenda Grisham, one of the campaign’s leaders. “How are you going to change something in the middle of the recall? I don’t understand how that’s ethically right.”
According to Grisham, the county seemed confused by its own procedures when her group began to pursue a recall, and were initially unable to give guidance as to whether they should follow state or county regulations.
“They’ve never had anybody recalled, so they say, in 30 years,” Grisham said. “The reason it took us so long is that they had no clue on what needed to be done.”
If the ordinance were to move forward, the special election would ask voters if the entire language of the County Charter pertaining to recalls should be replaced with one line: “California state law applicable to the recall of county officers shall govern the recall of County of Alameda elected and appointed officers.”
Among a number of differences, state law requires a higher proportion of signatures to initiate a recall election, and also allows the board of supervisors to choose a new candidate who would then finish the term.
Neither the District Attorney’s office, nor county counsel Ziegler had responded to requests to comment by press time.
Grisham likened the new ordinance to changing horses midstream. But she expects her campaign to have gathered enough signatures to initiate a recall election prior to any potential changes to county law.
“We’re not concerned,” Grisham said.