But while the the Electoral College is a buffer between the people and their leader — it routinely allows the person with fewer overall votes to gain control of the White House — the recall process is a cattle prod to the system, allowing a fraction of voters, through signature petitions, to force a special election in an off year, when voters might be less likely to show up.
Bottom line: Millions more Californians could vote to oppose the recall than vote to select its next governor, a strange outcome for a process that’s supposed to bring people closer to direct democracy.
What’s different today? Most of the voting will be done by mail. In fact, every registered voter was sent a ballot in the mail. That could give Democrats an advantage since 22 million ballots have been mailed out. Early returns are coming more from Democrats, but they outnumber Republicans 2-1 in the state and Republicans may be waiting to vote on Election Day.
I’m going to borrow some passages from reports by CNN’s Maeve Reston, who has been following this recall and Newsom the whole way.
How does this process work?
As Reston recently wrote, “Voters will be asked just two questions on the recall ballot: First, ‘yes’ or ‘no’ on whether they want to recall Newsom. Second, they will be asked to select from a list of candidates from all parties who wish to replace him. Forty-six contenders have qualified for the ballot, but there is no well-known Democrat vying to replace him. (Newsom is not allowed to run as a replacement candidate.)”
What does the ballot look like?
A friend in California and What Matters subscriber sent in an image of her mail-in ballot. It’s a long piece of paper with the recall question at the bottom of the first side. I can see how it would be easy for some people to miss. The rest of the names are on the flip side of the page.
Who else is running?
Most of the 46 candidates are Republicans and several have gotten more attention than others.
Is there a backup to Newsom?
There are a number of Democrats on the ballot, but the governor’s strategy has been to encourage people to vote “no” on recall. Full stop. Keep it simple. That all-or-nothing strategy is either going to be widely criticized in hindsight if someone like Elder, the conservative radio host, is suddenly governor of the biggest blue state in the nation, or smart politics if Newsom survives.
Why is Newsom facing this recall?
I’ll borrow a succinct two paragraphs from Reston and CNN’s Ethan Cohen:
The grassroots effort to oust Newsom, who was elected in 2018, was launched last year by a group of conservative Californians critical of the Democratic governor’s record on immigration, taxes, the death penalty and the state’s homelessness crisis, among other issues.
But their quest to collect enough signature petitions to force a recall election took off late last year amid anger about Newsom’s Covid-19 stay-at-home orders and other restrictions. And while the governor appeared to be in a strong position to withstand the effort for much of this year, the resurgence of the pandemic and frustration with the state’s wildfire, drought and homelessness crises has injected an unexpected level of volatility into the race in an overwhelmingly blue state.
The election is about so much more than that one dinner, but it will be the detail that follows him into history if he loses. It’s also important to remember that while California is a big, blue state, there are a lot of Republicans who live there.
Newsom has recovered from his French Laundry snafu from a policy perspective and has support in public opinion polls as he carefully navigated issues like requirements for masks in schools.
He also found a way to pass two rounds of stimulus payments — checks of up to $500 — for Californians, the second of which is going out now, as voters consider his recall.
What are the odds he’ll survive?
This is from Reston: “In raw numbers, Democrats have a clear advantage in a state where they outnumber Republicans by nearly two-to-one. But many longtime California strategists say it is difficult to predict what the turnout universe will look like in an off-year election in September where every single registered voter in the state will receive a ballot.”
She also included this bit of data from the firm Political Data Inc., which works with Democratic candidates: Of the 1.5 million ballots sent back so far, 57% of them were Democratic ballots, while only 21% were GOP ballots, according to its tracker.