After the Sunol Glen Unified School District school board banned the school from flying a Pride flag on Tuesday, parents immediately turned their attention toward a potential recall of the board members, Ryan Jergensen and Linda Hurley, who voted for the resolution, which passed 2-1.
“A lot of average parents are about to learn a lot more about recall,” said Matthew Sylvester, a parent at the Sunol Glen school. “It’s a really big possibility.”
But how would a recall in Sunol actually work? Historical numbers show that, even when there appears to be momentum to recall a local official, the process is far easier said than done.
According to Ballotpedia, there were an average of 34 recall efforts against an average of 80 school board members each year nationwide between 2009 and 2022. Those recall campaigns–spurred by a variety of allegations ranging from bad behavior to mismanagement of funds–resulted in just 10% of the targeted school board members being removed from office.
In California, procedures for recalling a local official require proponents to first first file a written notice of their intent to initiate a recall campaign.
That notice contains the targeted board member’s name, a statement describing the reasons for the recall, and signatures. In Sunol, because of the number of registered voters, there would need to be 30 proponents listed on the recall notice.
That notice must then be delivered to the school board member or members facing recall, as well as the local elections official, and then published in a newspaper “of general circulation.”
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Next comes the actual recall petition, which must abide by a number of formatting and signature collection requirements. Since the recall is targeting a school board member, the petition needs to include a cost estimate of conducting a special election and it can only be circulated by persons over the age of 18.
But the most difficult challenge for recall proponents–and the primary reason that so many petitions have failed–is the number of signatures that must be gathered.
The number of signatures varies depending on the number of registered voters in a district. In Sunol, that number is 30% of the total number of registered voters.
According to Alameda County data, there are 816 registered voters in the Sunol Glen Unified School District, 314 of whom are registered Democrats. A successful recall would require at least 245 signatures from registered voters.