The 2021 California Recall Election

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Eleanor Shaw

Within the past several weeks, a recall election of California’s governor has been announced, and as the election nears, questions concerning the validity of the election’s results continue to rise. California’s current governor, the Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom, has been the subject of several criticisms. Throughout Newsom’s term, beginning from his election in 2019, the state of California has been made the victim of not only the COVID-19 pandemic, but a homelessness crisis, catastrophic wildfires, and a peak in crime rates.
During the November of 2020, after having enforced restrictive COVID-19 guidelines, including but not limited to a mask mandate and stay at home orders, Governor Newsom was reported to have attended a birthday party for lobbyist Jason Kinney at the high-end restaurant: the French Laundry. Guests to this party were not required to wear masks, only fanning the flames of anger directed towards Governor Newsom’s COVID-19 orders. Governor Newsom’s attendance to this event was considered extremely hypocritical after he had previously discouraged Californians to gather in large groups that upcoming Thanksgiving.
The accumulation of these grievances reached a tipping point when a primarily Republican group of voters rallied together to demand a recall election for the position of Governor of California. This was made possible through the California law that, in summary, states that a recall election can be issued after twelve percent of statewide turnout for voting signs petitions in favor of a recall election. This fact is expanded upon in an article published by the Associated Press, stating that, “California is one of 20 states that have provisions to recall a sitting governor, 19 through elections. The state law establishing the rules goes back to 1911 and was intended to place more power directly in the hands of voters by allowing them to remove elected officials and repeal or pass laws by placing them on the ballot.” After the recall was officially announced, the candidates for the election began rolling in.
Currently, there are forty-six individuals who are on the ballot, a shockingly high number. This is largely due to the fact that, to become a candidate, the process is relatively simple. In fact, all hopeful candidates have to do in order to be placed on the ballot is to provide 7,000 valid signatures alongside a $4,194.94 fee whilst being an individual with a clean criminal record. These easy to meet standards have made running for governor during a recall election a simple process, greatly contributing to the aforementioned large number of candidates to vote for.
The ballot for the election will consist of two questions: the first asking whether or not the voter believes that Governor Newsom should retain his seat as governor, while the second inquiries that, if the voter had previously voted “no,” who the voter believes should be the next governor, choosing from one of the previously mentioned candidates. Some of the most prominent and well known candidates include the reality star and former Olympian, Caitlin Jenner (Republican), former San Diego mayor, Kevin Faulconer (Republican), and YouTube personality, Kevin Paffrath (Democrat). What has raised several complaints concerning this recall election is that if Governor Newsom does not obtain 50% of the vote, the individual who will inherit his position will have received only a fraction of the overall vote. For instance, if 49% of people answer “yes” to the first question presented on the ballot, Governor Newsom will be out of office, the next most popular candidate will assume the position of governor.
In fact, the second most popular candidate is the talk show host, Larry Elder. Elder, known for his support of the former President Donald Trump, his campaign to abolish COVID-19 regulations, and his other, more conservative leaning views, is estimated to have 20-22% of the overall vote. If Elder happens to be elected, California will be subject to a major shift from being a prominently Democrat state. One interesting scenario this election presents is the position it places the current Democratic Senator from California, Dianne Feinstein, in as she nears retirement at 88 years old. As stated in a segment published by PBS, “[I]n recent years, [Feinstein’s] performance has concerned Democrats who have been urging her to resign. If Larry Elder becomes governor and if Dianne Feinstein has to leave the Senate, he has said he will appoint a Republican in her place to serve the remainder of her term, which would make the U.S. Senate no longer controlled by Democrats.”
This election is a truly interesting occurrence, providing the Republican party with the opportunity to increase their influence in not only the government in the state of California, but the United States’ government as a whole. As previously stated, the election will occur on September 14, 2021, and until then, the nation will hold its breath in anticipation.