An analysis released Thursday projects the recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom will cost at least $215 million, less than what elections officials initially estimated but a large enough price tag that local governments across California will need the state to pick up the tab.
Legislative leaders quickly seized on the estimate provided by the state Department of Finance as fulfilling a mandate under state law to fully assess the costs of the recall — potentially speeding up by some two months the special election in which voters could oust Newsom from office.
Senate President Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) and Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said Thursday that they will include the projected cost in the state budget that must be enacted by the end of the month.
“By providing counties with the funding they need, we can waive the required period for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee to review the election costs,” the two leaders said in a joint written statement.
But it’s not clear when lawmakers would change the rules, a process led by legislative Democrats that could be seen as helping Newsom by forcing a recall election sooner rather than later.
The cost estimate came from an inquiry posed to counties by the Newsom administration in preparation for upcoming state budget negotiations.
- - - - - - - -
Neither effort to crunch the numbers should be considered complete. A large number of candidates running to replace Newsom, for example, can lead to multipage ballots and voter guides, adding on additional expenses. In 2003, for example, there were 135 candidates on the ballot seeking to replace Davis.
Other unknowns, including whether the ballot will include additional contests and what that will do to the cost of mailing ballots and other materials, are unlikely to be cleared up any time soon.
“There is much that has been and remains fluid about the recall,” said Dean Logan, the registrar of voters in Los Angeles County.
It’s also uncertain what kinds of in-person regulations might be adopted by the Legislature for the recall if COVID-19 conditions should worsen. The pandemic prompted lawmakers earlier this year to extend last year’s temporary rules requiring elections officials to mail a ballot in the recall election to all of California’s 21 million voters.
Heatlie disputed the need for that accommodation. “With the state reopening this month, there is no need for an all mail-in ballot system,” he said. “We could and should return to in-person voting as we’ve had in the past.”
Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, praised lawmakers for promising that there will besufficient funding to cover the expenses.
“County election departments have been hit hard by staff losses, budget cuts and an uptick in harassment and personal attacks,” she said. “This funding will give them peace of mind that they will have adequate resources to carry out their responsibilities.” (Full Story)