SAN DIEGO — It’s an unusual, off-cycle election with only two questions for California voters to answer: Should Gov. Gavin Newsom be removed from office? And if so, who should replace him?
The unfamiliar format of the September gubernatorial recall election has raised some questions for voters: namely, should residents answer the second question even if they answered “No” to removing Newsom?
Your vote will count no matter what, so you don’t have to fill in the second portion if you don’t have a preference — ballots with a “Yes” or “No” response still count toward the outcome even if the second question is left blank.
But it’s worth keeping in mind that a vote for a replacement candidate only matters if more than 50% of residents have approved Newsom’s removal. At that point, the state is getting a new governor from the replacement field no matter what — so even “No” voters might want to pick a favorite in the case Newsom is removed.
If you don’t choose a replacement and Newsom loses, you won’t have a voice in who takes office. And selecting a replacement candidate does not influence the likelihood of Newsom’s removal one way or another.
Voters might also be wondering how many votes a replacement candidate needs in order to take office. In short, there’s no requirement: If a majority of voters want Newsom removed, the highest-placing replacement candidate will take office, regardless of their vote share.
That means 48% of voters could be in favor of Newsom staying in office, and he could be replaced with someone who got 30% of the replacement votes.
“The numbers really stagger the mind, just for how low the bar is just to qualify,” said FOX 5 political analyst Carl Luna. “The person that replaces him — the way it’s set up — whoever gets the most votes, a plurality not a majority … becomes the governor.”
And what about the normal gubernatorial election next year? Does this replace that contest?
No, California voters will head to the polls once more in 2022, regardless of if Newsom is removed from office. Luna predicts that if a Republican replacement candidate takes over, there will likely be a period of gridlock between their office and the Democrat-dominated state legislature until the upcoming election.
“If he is recalled, here’s the deal: Next year in 2022, in November, we vote on governor again,” Luna told FOX 5. “So whoever gets it is simply going to be holding on for a year and obstructing — things won’t really get done in California, and then maybe Gavin Newsom runs for reelection.”
In the meantime, when and how can you vote in the recall election? Mail ballots have already been sent out to all registered voters, and over 300,000 of them have already been turned in and processed, according to Cynthia Paes, the county’s interim registrar.
There’s still ample time to participate: Voters can return ballots by mail or at drop-off locations all over the San Diego region, and there will be in-person voting available at your local polling place Saturday, Sept. 11 through Tuesday, Sept. 14.