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California heads to the polls as Gov. Gavin Newsom seeks to fend off Larry Elder in recall election

  • September 14, 2021

polls showed the Democrat is likely to keep his job leading a state that is known nationally as a liberal trendsetter. 

Regardless of the result, the election itself is both rare and historic. A Newsom recall would potentially send shockwaves across the country and throughout the Democratic Party.

Only twice in U.S. history has a governor been removed from office via recall; in North Dakota in 1921; and in California in 2003, when Gray Davis was removed and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Everything you need to know:California’s recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom is Tuesday. Here’s what’s at stake.

commander in chief telling voters at a campaign rally that the “eyes of the nation are on California.” Biden warned Monday in Long Beach, California, that removing the first-term governor would carry consequences that would reverberate around the nation and risk returning to the “dark, destructive, divisive politics” of former President Donald Trump.

Meanwhile, Republican frontrunner, conservative radio host Larry Elder, labeled by Biden as a “Trump clone,” predicted victory.

“Make sure you have your friends vote, vote, vote, and try and get 10 more friends to vote and hit every call, make every call, knock on every door, we’re gonna win this thing if we turn out the vote,” Elder said this week.

How the California recall works

Voters will be asked two questions on their ballot: Should Newsom be recalled? If more than 50% of voters say yes, then the next question will be key: Who should replace him?

Forty-six candidates will appear on the ballot. Elder has consistently been leading polls among those vying to replace Newsom. He will be stationed Tuesday in Costa Mesa, California, about 40 miles south of Los Angeles, with supporters.

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Other prominent Republican candidates running include Caitlyn Jenner, a former Olympic gold medalist who starred on the reality series “Keeping Up with the Kardashians”; former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; California Assemblyman Kevin Kiley; and John Cox, a businessman who was easily defeated by Newsom in the 2018 gubernatorial election.

The only leading Democratic candidate who has emerged in the race is Kevin Paffrath, a real estate broker and YouTube personality.

When should we expect final results?

The first polls in the state close at 8 p.m. PDT and a flood of results are expected from mail-in ballots and early in-person votes. About 37% of the roughly 22 million ballots sent to California voters had been returned as of Monday, according to an analysis from Political Data Inc.

Democrats had returned a larger share of those ballots than Republicans, meaning early results could show good signs for Newsom. But that might not last and the number of voters who turn out Tuesday will likely be crucial in deciding the race. 

California historically takes weeks to count all the votes in statewide elections. In 2020, when nearly 18 million people cast ballots, a third of the votes in the presidential election were counted after election night. Two years earlier, more than 40% were counted after Election Day.

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Most California voters cast their ballots by mail, a trend that accelerated during the pandemic as many voters were reluctant to enter crowded polling places on Election Day. About 87% of California voters cast their ballots by mail in last year’s presidential election.

For Tuesday’s election, all 22 million registered voters were sent a mail ballot.

Mail ballots take longer to process than in-person votes because election officials must remove the ballots from envelopes, check the voter’s registration and make sure that the voter’s signature on the envelope matches the one on file. Then the votes can be counted.

When voters cast ballots in person, officials perform security measures at the polling place so the votes can be counted soon after the polls close.

But there have been unfounded claims of voter fraud and at least one Republican candidate in the race has refused to say whether he will accept the results of the race. 

his COVID-19 policies. He was applauded at the start of the pandemic for being the first to shut down a state over the virus.

Months later, California became the epicenter of the COVID-19 outbreak, despite the governor employing some of the strictest mandates in the country. Critics said he was heavy-handed, shuttering businesses and keeping children out of classrooms for longer than necessary. Newsom said his actions saved lives.

“I am angry. It should be a freedom of choice. What is this? A dictatorship?” asked Janet Webb, a 69-year-old Lafayette, California, resident who voted for Elder.

She said squabbles over Newsom’s handling of the pandemic have split her family and friends and may prompt her to move out of state.

“I can’t live here like this if they’re going to force everyone to get a vaccine,” Webb said.

Briana Mendoza, 30, said the last thing California needs is more turmoil. She voted to keep Newsom.

“We’re in the middle of a pandemic. Why would we recall the governor who has been really trying to curb the spread of the virus?” the San Diego social worker said.

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