A state official Tuesday approved the legal format of a petition to recall Gov. Gray Davis and set a Sept. 2 deadline for supporters to gather nearly 900,000 signatures to qualify their proposal for the ballot.
By doing so, Secretary of State Kevin Shelley cleared the way for the 160-day signature drive to begin.
The petition blames "poor schools, traffic jams, outrageous utility bills" and other troubles on "gross mismanagement" by the Democratic governor. It includes a Davis rebuttal dismissing the recall effort as a plot by "right-wing politicians" to overturn an election he won "fair and square" in November.
Govs. Pete Wilson, George Deukmejian, Jerry Brown, Ronald Reagan and Pat Brown faced recall attempts, but proponents failed each time to gather enough signatures to get on the ballot.
Supporters of a Davis recall must collect at least 897,158 valid signatures of registered voters to get on the ballot. Under a timetable set by Shelley, it could take until Dec. 12 to gain state certification for an election.
The next regular statewide election is the March 2004 presidential primary, but it is too soon to determine whether the state could put a Davis recall proposal on the same ballot, said Shelley spokeswoman Terri M. Carbaugh. A special election probably would cost at least $25 million, she said.