California’s Governor Gavin Newsom is facing a recall election on Tuesday, Sept. 14. If the recall is successful, he will be removed from office. Newsom, a Democrat, was elected governor in 2018.
How does the recall work?
Every registered voter in California has been mailed a ballot. The first question is whether Newsom should be recalled. If at least 50% vote NO, he will remain as governor. If 50% or more vote YES, Newsom will be removed from office.
What happens if he’s removed?
The second question in the election is who voters would like to see replace Newsom. There are 46 candidates on the ballot. If he’s removed from office in the election, the person with the most votes will replace him. A poll released Friday, September 10 by UC Berkeley https://escholarship.org/uc/item/1g8696rv had conservative talk show host Larry Elder, a Republican, as the leading candidate to replace Newsom.
If a Republican replaces Newsom, what are the implications?
Fullerton College political science professor Jodi Balma pointed out that Democrats hold super-majorities in both houses of the California Legislature. Because of this, any statewide policy implications are limited. One potential scenario has national implications, however. Democratic senator Dianne Feinstein has been the subject of speculation that she might not finish her full term. If that were to happen, a Republican governor would appoint a senator from their party, handing the United States Senate control to the GOP.
To vote, do I have to fill in both questions?
No, you can vote on either or both questions on the recall ballot. This includes the ability to vote NO on recalling Newsom and also choose from the replacement candidates.
Does this often happen in California?
The ability of voters to remove the governor was added to the California constitution in 1911. Since then, there have been 54 previous recall attempts, including five against Newsom. However, Balma highlighted that this is only the second attempt to qualify for the ballot. The other was against Gray Davis in 2003, where he was recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
How did this all get started?
Conservative activists have been seeking to recall Newsom since shortly after he took office in 2019. Five attempts have been made to recall Newsom that did not qualify for the ballot. The attempt that qualified for the ballot was launched in February 2020 of last year, criticizing Newsom on issues including immigration, homelessness, taxes, and the death penalty. It gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic, around criticism of his actions in response to the pandemic.
What made this attempt different?
The analysis from Balma – the pandemic. This impacted both the issues arising from it and the time frame that proponents had to gather signatures, equal to 12% of voters in the last election for Governor. Due to the pandemic, a judge granted organizers more time.
“Only with that extended time were they able to get the signatures,” said Balma.
How have Newsom and Democrats responded?
Newsom and his democratic supporters characterize the recall as a partisan attempt at a power grab by Trump-supporting Republicans. Newsom’s response to the recall points to his record on pandemic response, homelessness, wildfires, infrastructure, and the $81 million it would cost California taxpayers to fund a successful recall.
Newsom’s team has sought to craft a tight strategy. First, keep Democrats of any stature off the ballot. Second, urge voters to vote no on the first question and then send in their ballot, skipping the second entirely. Through this, they hope to have a simple message that keeps the focus on Newsom vs. Republicans and drives Democratic voter turnout.
Where do things stand?
The UC Berkeley poll showed that approximately 60% of likely voters opposed recalling Newsom. Information from Political Data Intelligence shows that as of September 11, 35% of California ballots have been returned.
For more information
- In California, elections are overseen by the Secretary of State.
- Voters in Orange County, your local election authority is the OC Registrar of Voters.
- Voters in Los Angeles County, your local election authority is the Los Angeles County residents.