When Santa Clara County voters recalled a Northern California judge in Tuesday's election, it was easy to understand the emotions that drove the 59-to-41 percent decision and marked the state's first ousting of a judge since 1932.

In 2016, Stanford University swimmer Brock Turner was found guilty of three felony counts of sexual assault after forcing himself on an unconscious woman outside a fraternity party. By law, Turner faced a maximum of 14 years in prison. Prosecutors sought six. But Superior Court Judge Aaron Persky followed a county probation department's recommendation and gave Turner six months.

Believing the sentence far too light and Persky a threat to justice for women, Stanford Law School professor Michele Dauber spearheaded a campaign to gather nearly 95,000 signatures from local voters to get the recall measure on the ballot.

That the judge was ousted — nationwide, the last successful such attempt was in 1977 in Wisconsin — speaks to the justifiable outrage of people regarding the hot-button issue of sexual assault. And Persky was flat wrong in going so lightly on the sentencing of a young man whose actions scraped the lowest levels of human indignity. But none of this transcends the law or justifies a recall that sets a chilling precedent for all interested in justice on a broader level.

While the recall effort was understandable, legal and justifiable as far as this case goes, it's a serious threat to judicial independence as a whole. If judges face recall threats every time they make an unpopular decision, they'll naturally skew their sentences to sway with the winds of public opinion, which works against a supposedly impartial justice system.

And who will pay the highest price if those winds blow toward tougher sentences, the likely case? Not fraternity boys, but the underprivileged and racial minorities, who are incarcerated at a rate far higher than whites but for whom justice should be no less available.

Consider if the tables were turned and Persky sentenced Turner to the max. In response, Stanford athletic boosters, in the name of justice, led a recall effort against the judge. Do we really want political campaigns intruding on the courts like this? Civil attorney Angela Storey, a rape victim herself, won Tuesday's election to replace Persky. But even she calls this a "dangerous precedent," saying voters should concentrate on changing laws instead of removing judges.

If a judge has a clear pattern of decisions or behavior that mocks the fairness our courts should seek, yes, recall him or her. But to recall judges for a single sentencing — clearly the case here — is, in the fight for justice, to win the battle but to lose the war.