2003 California gubernatorial recall election

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Sample ballot from Orange County; the recall question, along with the list of replacement candidates fills the first three columns. The order of the names on the ballot was determined by a randomization of the sequence of the alphabet, with the list being shifted in each of the state's 80 Assembly districts (hence, with 135 candidates in the race, some candidates were not able to be listed first in at least one district)[1]

The 2003 California gubernatorial recall election was a special election permitted under California state law. It resulted in voters replacing incumbent Democratic Governor Gray Davis with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger. The recall effort spanned the latter half of 2003. Seven of the nine previous governors, including Davis, had faced unsuccessful recall attempts.[2]

After several legal and procedural efforts failed to stop it, California's first-ever gubernatorial recall election was held on October 7, and the results were certified on November 14, 2003, making Davis the first governor recalled in the history of California, and just the second in U.S. history (the first was North Dakota's 1921 recall of Lynn Frazier).[3] California is one of 19 states that allow recalls.[4] Nearly 18 years after the 2003 election, California held a second recall election in 2021; however, this recall was unsuccessful, failing to oust Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom.[5]


  1. "Recall alphabet: Do you know your RWQs?". CNN. August 12, 2003.
  2. "Complete List of Recall Attempts".
  3. Baldassare, Mark; Katz, Cheryl (2008). The Coming Age of Direct Democracy: California's Recall and Beyond. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. p. 11. ISBN 9780742538719. Retrieved 2012-05-20. gray davis lynn frazier.
  4. Jennie Bowser. "Recall of State Officials". Ncsl.org. Retrieved 2012-10-02.
  5. White, Jeremy (March 16, 2021). "Newsom says California recall likely to qualify, tries to soften Feinstein stance". Politico.