For Gov. Gavin Newsom, the only thing that matters in the recall election he faces is how California voters fill out the part of the ballot that can keep him in office. Whether they understand that they also have the right to select a potential replacement isn’t part of his equation.
But the singular focus of Newsom and prominent Democrats could be a high-stakes gamble with the party’s political and policy agenda. It might also leave millions of voters who soon will receive a ballot in the mail unaware they can cast a vote on both of the recall ballot’s questions — even if their preference is to retain Newsom as governor.
“I think it’s unfortunate that the Democratic Party is not giving voters any guidance on what to do on the second question,” said Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation. “It’s going to leave a lot of people confused.”
And should a majority of voters cast ballots to expel Newsom, it could produce a new governor chosen by only a small fraction of the electorate.
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The intervening years have seen a handful of local and legislative recall elections, but the Sept. 14 contest will be the first of its kind for voters who weren’t around in 2003 and haven’t had any experience with the two-question ballot. Many of those new participants may be perplexed, for example, as to why they would be allowed to choose a new governor if they voted to keep the incumbent.
“I can understand why people would wonder,” Alexander said. “It’s a counterintuitive vote.”
While some voters in Los Angeles County will begin receiving ballots this week, most counties will begin distribution a week from Monday. State and local elections officials say they have plans to communicate to voters that the two questions — whether Newsom should be removed and who should take his place in the event that happens — are distinct from each other and can both be answered. But Newsom’s campaign is largely pretending the second question doesn’t exist.
“Leave it blank,” Nathan Click, an advisor to Newsom, said about the replacement election. “Voting no on the recall is the only way to block the Republican power grab and prevent a Republican takeover of California.”
That message, while simple, is misleading. Twenty-two of the replacement ballot’s 46 candidates aren’t registered with the Republican Party: Nine are Democrats, three are affiliated with a minor party and 10 are “no party preference” candidate. (Full Story)