Matthew Hall & Todd James, SMDP Staff

California’s recall election for Governor Gavin Newsom is underway but many voters are confused about what is happening, how to vote and what could happen as a result of the election.

The ballot appears simple with just two items to consider: Should Newsom be recalled? If he is, who should his replacement be?

If 50% or more vote NO on the first item, Newsom remains in office to serve out his term.

If less than 50% vote NO, Newsom will be removed from office and replaced by one of the 46 candidates listed in the second item of the ballot. The winning candidate only needs to have the most votes, not a majority.

Confusingly, at the end of the candidate list is a blank space that seems to beg for a write-in candidate, but the list of certified write-in candidates won’t be available until Sept. 3 and Newsom won’t be one of them.

Compounding voter confusion is Newsom’s request that voters ignore item two altogether, i.e. vote NO on item one and be done with it. That implies to some that if they vote NO on item one their candidate vote won’t count however this is not the case. Your vote for both items is counted regardless of how you vote on item one.

Newsom’s all-or-nothing strategy is generating much consternation within Democratic circles. Polls have shown significant enthusiasm for the election among the state’s small conservative voter base and some voters are concerned skipping the second question could leave the choice of Governor up to a very small, very vocal conservative minority.

Additionally, Newsom and the Democratic Party’s decision to not allow a strong Democrat fall-back candidate onto the ballot is garnering criticism now that polls are tightening.

Of the 46 replacement candidates on the ballot, 24 list themselves as Republicans. One, former Congressman Doug Ose, has withdrawn after a heart attack in recent weeks.

Conservative radio personality Larry Elder has emerged as the front-runner but other significant candidates include former San Diego mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox, celebrity Caitlyn Jenner and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley. Few of the remaining candidates have significant campaigns or fundraising efforts. The non-Republican field includes 10 independents, nine Democrats, two members of the Green Party and a Libertarian.

Jackie McGowan, one of the Democrats running for Governor, criticized the California Democratic Party for telling Democratic voters to leave item two blank.

“Polls show Governor Newsom at risk of being recalled. A Trump takeover of California could result in Mitch McConnell controlling the Senate. That’s bad news for California and bad news for our country,” said McGowan. “Our Senior Senator Diane Feinstein is 88 years old. We all wish her a long life and good health. But we need to make sure a Democratic Governor would replace her if she could no longer serve. President Biden’s ambitious plans to Build Back Better would never pass a McConnell-controlled Senate.”

McGowan does not support the recall itself but said Democrats should have a plan in case it succeeds.

Voting locations

All registered voters in Los Angeles County will be mailed a Vote by Mail ballot and many are already in the hands of voters. Voters who have yet to receive their Vote by Mail ballot can request a replacement ballot as of Aug. 23.

Residents have three choices to return their ballot, by mail (no postage necessary), in person at a Vote by Mail Drop Box location or at any Vote Center in the county.

Santa Monicans have three choices for Drop Boxes at the Santa Monica Main Library (601 Santa Monica Boulevard), Virginia Avenue Park (2200 Virginia Avenue) and Marine Park (1406 Marine Street).

The Drop Boxes were first used in the November 2020 presidential election. The boxes are open up to 8 p.m. on election day. The boxes are bolted securely into cement or chained in place and are designed with security features identified in state regulations.

There are no in-person Vote Centers located inside Santa Monica city limits. The closest locations are:

Stoner Recreation Center (1835 Stoner Ave, Los Angeles). Hours: September 4 – Sept. 13: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sept. 14: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Mar Vista Recreation Center (11430 Woodbine St, Los Angeles). Hours: Sept. 4 – Sept. 13: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sept. 14: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Oakwood Recreation Center (767 California Ave, Venice). Hours: Sept. 4 – Sept. 13: 10 a.m. – 7 p.m. Sept. 14: 7 a.m. – 8 p.m.

Ballots postmarked by Election Day and received within seven days will be counted.