County of San Diego Seal

By John Wilkens
August 3, 2013 – 1:00 p.m.

So many signatures, so little time.

For the people trying to recall San Diego Mayor Bob Filner, the numbers are daunting: They’ll have to get more than 100,000 registered voters in the city to sign petitions in 39 days.

If they succeed, though, it will be Filner looking at some uncomfortable odds. Last year, nationwide, there were 168 recalls. Of those, 108 — or about 65 percent — succeeded in pushing the targeted officeholder out the door.

That’s according to Joshua Spivak, a visiting fellow at Wagner College’s Carey Institute for Government Reform in New York. He tracks recalls, which he calls “The Grand Bounce,” and writes about them on his Recall Elections Blog.

“There are steep hurdles, but the fact that it involves what it does (alleged sexual misconduct) could push it forward,” he said. “Corruption and malfeasance cases work best. And something like the situation you have there, with the city being embarrassed and nobody happy about it — that will be a factor, too.”

Recalls have been a feature of the democratic process for longer than America has been a country. San Diego County has seen at least 15 recall elections since 1914 (eight succeeded), with the most recent bringing the ouster of Poway City Councilwoman Betty Rexford three years ago.

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