In a milestone for the grassroots effort to unseat Santa Clara County Judge Aaron Persky for his alleged bias in sexual violence cases, the campaign has gathered the number of voter signatures required to place the recall on the June ballot.
Campaign leaders filed nearly 100,000 signatures on Thursday morning at the Santa Clara County Registrar of Voters in San Jose. They are required to have at least 58,634 valid signatures.
The campaign launched in response to Persky's sentencing of former Stanford University student Brock Turner: six months in county jail for sexually assaulting an unconscious woman on campus in 2015.
Campaign chair Michele Dauber, a Stanford law professor and Palo Alto resident, told the Weekly that the campaign was "overwhelmed" by the response from voters who signed the recall petition over the past four months.
The recall campaign spent about $300,000 to $350,000 on the signature-gathering effort, according to spokesperson Becky Warren.
The campaign alleges Persky, in addition to the Turner sentencing, has displayed a pattern of bias against women and defendants of color in several sex-crime cases.
Opponents argue the recall poses a threat to judicial independence and that Persky's sentencing decisions have followed the letter of the law.
Persky's lawyer, James McManis of McManis Faulkner, did not immediately return a request for comment. Persky worked last year to stop the recall effort from proceeding by filing legal challenges, including alleging that because he is a state officer, California's secretary of state rather than the county registrar should oversee the recall and that the replacement for a recalled judge should be appointed by the governor rather than elected. A judge ultimately ruled against Persky and allowed the recall campaign to start gathering signatures.
Dauber said the recall effort has benefited from the national #MeToo movement's momentum against sexual violence and harassment.
"There are many Americans right now who are calling for the end of the culture of impunity for offenses against women. This goes from Hollywood to Silicon Valley to colleges to high schools to the courts and the criminal justice system," Dauber said.
The Registrar of Voters now has 30 business days to count and "certify whether the petition is sufficient," the Registrar said in an announcement.
Under California Elections Code, a random sampling of 5 percent of the signatures will be examined and verified, the Registrar said. If the number of valid signatures is greater than 110 percent of the required 58,634 signatures, the petition will be deemed sufficient for the ballot without additional signature verification. If it has less than 90 percent, the petition is considered insufficient.
If the number of valid signatures is more than 90 percent but less than 110 percent, however, the Registrar must examine and verify all of the signatures submitted. Registrar of Voters Shannon Bushey described this scenario as a "labor-intensive process" that would require additional staff and could stretch into mid-February.
Election officials said they expect to have the results of the random sample verification in 10 to 14 business days.
If verified, the recall would go to the county Board of Supervisors for placement on the June 5 ballot. It would be paired with a contest to decide who would replace Persky if he were recalled.
Only one candidate so far has publicly said she plans to run for Persky's seat: Cindy Hendrickson, a longtime Santa Clara County prosecutor who currently works on District Attorney Jeff Rosen's executive team. An online fundraising campaign she launched in October has raised about $5,400 toward a $15,000 goal.
While Hendrickson's boss publicly criticized Persky's sentencing in the Turner case, Rosen endorsed the judge last spring.
Ongoing coverage of the recall campaign can be found on the Palo Alto Weekly's Storify page.