California Common Cause 2023 Action Plan

Every day, California Common Cause members like you are working to make our state’s democracy fairer and more inclusive. We’ve identified some major opportunities for change in this year’s legislative session – read on to learn more and find out how you can get involved.

1. Fixing California’s Recall 

Remember that gubernatorial recall election that left many Californians scratching their heads? The one that cost our state hundreds of millions of dollars, generated zany headlines, diverted the attention of our state’s leadership for months, seemed to be motivated by national issues and funded by national partisans…. and after all that, we ended with the same situation we started with.

And worse still, because of the specific rules of California’s recall it created the danger that a low-support candidate could win a low-turnout election and become the next governor with support from just a fraction of Californians. This isn’t about political parties and which side wins. It’s fundamentally a problem when something that was instituted as a tool of popular democracy 100 years ago could result in anti-democratic minority rule.

It is beyond time we push to reform the recall process in our state — in a way that preserves the spirit of direct democracy and maintains the recall for when it is really needed, but that also makes our elections more representative, strengthens the integrity of our institutions, and makes a responsible use of voters’ time and state resources. 

We are sponsoring a constitutional amendment (SCA 1, Newman) that would change how gubernatorial recall elections are conducted, among other changes. If this measure passes the Legislature, and then wins the support of voters on the 2024 ballot, only one question will appear on a recall ballot, asking a voter to decide whether or not a governor should be recalled from office. 

In the event that a recall receives majority support, the replacement would be handled at the next regular election, with the Lieutenant Governor holding office temporarily in the meantime. This would ensure a replacement is selected by a majority vote at a regular election, instead of a plurality vote at a low-turnout special election. It should end the gamesmanship and spectacle of the recall, while keeping it in place for when it is truly appropriate.

2. Fighting for Independent Community Redistricting

Time and time again independent, community-run redistricting commissions have been shown to lead redistricting processes that maximize fairness, transparency, and public participation, and minimize the gerrymandering that incumbent politicians are infamous for. Read more in our tremendous new report on local redistricting in California, “The Promise of Fair Maps.”

We are sponsoring legislation that would require the use of independent redistricting commissions, which are tested and proven, in California’s largest counties, cities, and school districts, starting in the 2030 redistricting cycle. Requiring local jurisdictions to utilize independent redistricting commissions will give power back to the people and help fight back against gerrymandering. 

3. Ending Incumbent Gerrymandering in Local Redistricting 

The FAIR MAPS Act, which California Common Cause sponsored in 2019, sets standardized, fair redistricting criteria for cities and counties. The criteria are meant to ensure neighborhoods and diverse communities are kept intact, and the empowerment of regular folks trumps the priorities of sitting incumbents. 

But in the 2020 redistricting cycle we saw weaknesses to the FAIR MAPS Act. Local politicians abused the redistricting process to protect their incumbency at the expense of communities and it was not clear how adopted district maps compiled with redistricting criteria, if at all. Again, read our new report, “The Promise of Fair Maps,” to learn more.

We are sponsoring legislation (AB 764, Bryan) that would prohibit incumbency-protection gerrymandering, strengthen the FAIR MAPS Act’s redistricting criteria, and add new administrative and public engagement requirements to make future local redistricting cycles more fair, more transparent, and more participatory.

4. Expanding Access to the CA Ballot through Increased Language Access 

California has the nation’s highest proportion of households (43.9%) that speak a language other than English at home. According to the US Census Bureau, approximately 2.94 million eligible voters in California self-identify as limited-English speaking. 

We are sponsoring legislation (AB 884, Low) that would expand language access support for voter registration and voting to more language communities in California and improve the quality of the language translations and assistance required by law. In a state as diverse as ours, we can’t build a truly inclusive democracy until we build a multilingual democracy.

In 2023, we will also be working to seal the deal on wins from 2022, from defending our landmark pay-to-play legislation against attack in the courts to implementing the Oakland Fair Elections Act and the Democracy Dollars program it creates

For over 50 years, Common Cause has been at the forefront in the fight to strengthen our democracy and we’ve fought hard to make sure we have accountability in our politics. That continues in 2023, when we will be fighting for our biggest and most ambitious legislative agenda in years.

We have come a long way and still have more work to do. I know I can count on you to show up, speak out, and take action — so thank you for being a part of California Common Cause.

Thanks for standing with us in this fight. 

Jonathan Mehta Stein, Executive Director

P.S. We can’t accomplish our ambitious 2023 plans without your commitment and support. Can you chip in to help California Common Cause protect and expand democracy in our state during this coming legislative session?