With some 22 million ballots arriving in Californians’ mailboxes this week, voting has begun in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election.
Between now and Sept. 14, voters will decide whether Newsom, a Democrat who won in a landslide in 2018, should be replaced — and if so, by whom.
Although the effort to recall the governor was once seen as improbable, recent polling shows it’s now a dead heat.
Newsom has raised more campaign funds than all of his challengers combined, and less than a quarter of the state’s electorate is Republican, but neither will matter if not enough Democrats cast ballots in the election to counteract Republican enthusiasm for the ouster.
As election season heats up, here are answers to your questions about voting in the recall.
Where’s my ballot?
Monday was the last day for counties to mail out ballots, so yours should be en route if it has not already arrived at your home.
As with last year’s presidential election, every active registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail. If you want to know exactly where yours is, sign up for the state’s free ballot-tracking service at california.ballottrax.net/voter/.
What’s on the ballot?
Just two questions: Should Newsom be recalled? And which candidate should succeed him?
If you answer one question and not the other, your ballot will still be counted.
Who is running to replace Newsom?
There are 46 candidates for governor on the ballot. A full list of their names is at elections.cdn.sos.ca.gov/statewide-elections/2021-recall/certified-list.pdf.
How many votes does Newsom need to stay in office? How many to be ousted?
If a majority of voters answer no to the first question — should Newsom be recalled? — then the governor keeps his job. If a majority vote yes, he’s out.
But then things get a little trickier. If voters choose to replace Newsom, the new governor will be the person who gets the most votes in the second question, even if it is far from a majority.
Here’s how that could play out: The current front-runner, talk radio host Larry Elder, has around 20% support among people who want to recall Newsom, according to recent polling.
Say 51% of voters choose to recall Newsom and 20% pick Elder as the replacement. Elder would be our next governor.
If I’m voting no on the recall, should I answer the second question?
This one is complicated. Newsom has been urging Democrats to ignore the question of who should replace him.
“One question. One answer. No on the recall. Move on. Send in the ballot,” Newsom said in a news conference over the weekend.
But some Democratic strategists think that’s unwise, as it “could produce a new governor chosen by only a small fraction of the electorate,” The Los Angeles Times reports. There are nine Democrats on the ballot, although none have significant support in the polls.
Newsom’s answer-only-the-first-question strategy is probably an attempt to avoid what happened in 2003, when Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
In that election, a prominent Democrat, Cruz Bustamante, was one of the replacement candidates. Some believe that Democratic voters may have voted to recall Davis because they thought he would be replaced by Bustamante, another Democrat.
What do I do with my ballot once I’ve filled it out?
The easiest thing is probably to turn it in at a drop box.
Visit your county website for information.
Alternatively, you can mail in your ballot as long as it’s postmarked by Sept. 14. Or you can vote in person anytime between Sept. 4 and Sept. 14.
If Newsom is recalled, how long will his successor be in office?
Newsom’s replacement would govern for about a year, until Newsom’s term ends in January 2023. There will be another election in November 2022 to choose who will serve the next four-year term as California’s governor.
If recalled, Newsom can run again.
This article originally appeared in The New York Times.