Recalling governors is all the rage this year

Out of 19 states (plus the District of Columbia) that allow for the recall of state officials, efforts are currently underway to recall governors in at least five.1 In New Jersey, Colorado and Oregon, elections officials have given organizers the OK to collect signatures to get a recall on the ballot. In Alaska, a group to recall Gov. Mike Dunleavy has formally registered with the state and is currently circulating a petition to receive official approval. There’s also a fifth effort underway in California, but multiple observers of California politics told FiveThirtyEight they don’t consider it to be serious; after all, recall attempts are more like a fact of life in the Golden State, as there have been 49 attempts to recall a California governor in the last 106 years. And a sixth state may soon join the ranks, as opponents of Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak say they’ll kick off a formal recall effort in the fall.

However, it would be a historically rare occurrence if any of these recalls qualify for the ballot. Only four gubernatorial recall efforts have ever done so: in 1921 in North Dakota, in 1988 in Arizona (though the election was canceled after the governor was impeached), in 2003 in California and in 2012 in Wisconsin. And it’s rarer still for governors to then go on and lose their recall election: It’s only happened twice in all of American history.2

Given this, five gubernatorial recall attempts is a notably high number. But recalls have gotten more common in recent years — especially at the beginning of this decade.

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