Alameda County recently faced the grim prospect of a recall drive qualifying against a prominent county official (District Attorney Pamela Price) that invoked outdated local recall laws that were unsuited to modern elections. So the county supervisors rolled the dice on a ballot measure to update those rules. In their argument in favor the supervisors claimed that Measure B would “make the recall election rules clearer and … help avoid long and expensive legal battles.” Measure B passed, but it created rather than solved problems. That’s because the county clerk’s certifying process for the recall seemingly combined the old charter and the new state rules in a confused and arbitrary process that is ripe for challenge.

Measure B requires the county to use the state’s recall rules for local jurisdictions, which Alameda was free to ignore because it is a charter county. The legislature revised those state rules in 2022 to make recalls less appealing; in particular, the new state law makes signature gathering harder. For the Price recall, switching to the state rules would increase the signature qualification threshold from 73,135 (under the charter) to 93,907 (under the state rules)—a 22% increase. To avoid Measure B’s effects if it passed, the recall proponents filed their 123,374 signatures the day before the Measure B election, so the charter rules presumably applied.