Polls have closed in the California recall election that will determine whether Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is ousted from office.
To remain in office, Newsom will need to garner a majority vote. Newsom has repeatedly asked his supporters to focus on voting "no" to the recall and to leave blank a second question that asks who of 46 candidates should replace the governor.
If voters remove the governor, a recall competitor needs a plurality of the vote to win. Dozens of Republican candidates including former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley have stepped forward to challenge Newsom, though conservative radio host Larry Elder has emerged as a favorite among GOP voters.
There are also nine Democrats, ten independents, two Green Party members and one Libertarian on the ballot.
In California, a recall is triggered when a petition can gather a number of signatures that is equal to 12 percent of the total votes cast the last time the seat was open. For this recall effort, just under 1.5 million signatures were needed. The recall movement amassed more than 1.6 million verified signatures.
Californians have been voting early for weeks; it is unclear how soon results can be expected. Election experts say it will depend on the number of early ballots and the amount of in-person voting on Tuesday.
Results could come within hours of polls closing at 8 p.m. Pacific time. However, if the race is tighter than expected, the count could last weeks.
Nearly 40 percent of registered voters had already cast ballots before Tuesday’s election, with Democratic ballots outnumbering Republican ballots two to one. Yet Republicans are expected to overwhelmingly vote in-person, rather than by mail.
Officials have 30 days to complete their official canvass and must give vote-by-mail ballots postmarked on election day one week to arrive, according to the New York Times. The certified count is not expected to come until October 22 as each of California’s 58 counties work to process ballots.
If polls are to be believed, Newsom is likely to remain in office: recent polling shows that 57.3 percent of likely voters would vote to keep Newsom in office while 41.5 percent would vote to remove him, according to FiveThirtyEight.
Additionally, the state is dominated by Democrats, with the party in control of the state legislature and every statewide office.
Still, despite the fact that Newsom was elected in a landslide three years ago, Californians have grown frustrated with the governor over his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the state’s homelessness and drug epidemics and exorbitant cost of living.
Early exit polling conducted by Edison Research on behalf of the National Election Pool showed that one-third of voters believe COVID-19 remains the biggest issue for the state, while one-fifth of respondents said homelessness, one in six said the economy and wildfires, respectively, and just under one-tenth saying crime.
Additionally, the polling showed 45 percent of the electorate believes Newsom’s COVID-19 policies have been reasonable, while roughly one-third said the policies were too strict and the remainder said they were not strict enough.
Californians were nearly evenly split on the state of California’s economy, with roughly half saying it is good or excellent and the remainder calling it not-so-good or poor. Six in ten voters said the costs of living in the state are at least somewhat unmanageable.
Newsom’s team remained confident on Tuesday evening before polls closed, with advisers telling CNN they had not seen a surge in GOP turnout that would be able to overcome their early vote lead.
Still, one adviser told CNN even though the “Election Day vote does not appear to be on fire,” it is somewhat too “early to say” definitively. A senior aide to Elder told the outlet the Republican’s team believes the Election Day turnout was strong and that “modeling is off” because the state has not had a recall election in 18 years.
The aide predicted Elder would receive strong support from independents.
If voters choose to recall Newsom, it would mark only the second time Californians have removed a governor in state history: Democrat Gray Davis was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
Meanwhile, Elder would be the first black governor of California if elected.