The contest unfolded this summer as the nation's most populous state saw a surge in coronavirus infections from the highly contagious delta variant and the return of masks and other restrictions in many places. There have been raging wildfires, crime rates have risen and a homeless crisis persists unabated.
Republicans are hoping for an upset in the heavily Democratic state, where the GOP hasn't won a statewide election since 2006. Newsom has been defending his record on the virus and warning that Republican front-runner Larry Elder, a conservative talk radio host, would undermine California's progressive values.
The election is being watched nationally, and the outcome could influence the 2022 elections, when a closely divided Congress will be in play.
How did California arrive at this point? Here are some answers:
WHAT IS A RECALL ELECTION?
California is one of 20 states that have provisions to recall a sitting governor, 19 through elections. The state law establishing the rules goes back to 1911 and was intended to give more power to voters by allowing them to remove elected officials and repeal or pass laws by placing them on the ballot.
2021 California gubernatorial recall election
The 2021 California gubernatorial recall election is a special election on whether or not to recall Governor Gavin Newsom from office and, if he is removed, to select a candidate to replace him for the remainder of the term, which ends in January 2023. The election follows the same pandemic-era format used in the November 2020 general election: in August, county election offices sent an official ballot to the mailing address of every registered voter for the option to vote by mail on or before election day, September 14, 2021, when polling places will be open statewide for the option to vote in-person.
Voters' ability to recall an elected official in California is the result of Progressive Era reforms enacted in 1911 alongside the introduction of the ballot initiative and women's suffrage. The 2003 recall election was the first time a gubernatorial recall attempt led to an election in California and resulted in the successful recall of Governor Gray Davis, who was replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. The 2021 California recall is the fourth gubernatorial recall election to successfully make the ballot in American history, the others being the 1921 North Dakota gubernatorial recall election , the 2003 California recall, and the 2012 Wisconsin gubernatorial recall election . California is the only U.S. state to have had two gubernatorial recall elections.
CNN, CBS News, NBC News, The New York Times, and others have all projected that Newsom has not been recalled.
Newsom recall petition
During Newsom's tenure as governor, a total of seven recall petitions were launched against him. On February 20, 2020, the petition which led to the 2021 recall election was served against Newsom. It stated, 'People in this state suffer the highest taxes in the nation, the highest homelessness rates, and the lowest quality of life as a result.' The timing of the recall attempt coincided with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. The basis for previous recall attempts included the state's 'Universal Healthcare and laws regarding illegal aliens' and 'homelessness'. On June 10, 2020, then-Secretary of State Alex Padilla approved petitioners' petitions for circulation. The recall petition focused on a variety of grievances, on issues such as sanctuary policies, homelessness, taxes, and water rationing. Newsom's official response to the petition touted his support for funding education, health care, and infrastructure, noted the State's fiscal health, and warned that the recall campaign was a partisan attack that would result in a costly election.
The recall campaign hired a political consulting firm in late June 2020, and the initial plan was to pay circulators to collect signatures. To ensure a successful validation, the recall campaign sought to gather 2 million signatures. Given the difficulties in obtaining signatures during the pandemic, however, the per-signature cost rose dramatically, and petitioners opted to proceed with a team of approximately 5,000 volunteer circulators instead. The first proponent of the recall, Orrin Heatlie, played a grassroots role in the previous attempt led by aspiring Tea Party politician Erin Cruz.
The petition was initially given a signature deadline of November 17, 2020, but was extended to March 17, 2021, by Sacramento County Superior Court Judge James P. Arguelles due to the pandemic. Arguelles ruled that recall proponents would have a longer time window to collect signatures than they normally would have under non-pandemic circumstances.
To have been listed on the ballot as a replacement candidate, a candidate must have been a United States citizen and registered to vote in California, submitted signatures from 65 registered voters and paid a $4,194.94 filing fee . Candidates who had been convicted of a felony involving bribery or embezzlement of public money were not allowed to run.
The deadline for filing was July 16, 2021. Forty-six candidates qualified to appear on the recall ballot, consisting of 24 Republicans, nine Democrats, two Greens, one Libertarian, and ten no party preference. Four of the 46 candidates qualified after a Sacramento County judge invalidated application of SB 27 on recall elections and ordered California's Secretary of State to add candidates who did not meet requirements for tax return disclosure. The list of candidates on the ballot was certified on July 21, 2021. Additionally, seven write-in candidates were certified by the Secretary of State on September 3. Of the write-in candidates, their party affiliation consists of two Democrats, one Republican, one American Independent, and three no party preference.