What You Need to Know About Voting in the Recall

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California Today

The race to replace Gov. Gavin Newsom is in a dead heat.

Soumya Karlamangla

Aug. 18, 2021, 8:50 a.m. ET

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Gov. Gavin Newsom campaigned against the recall this week in San Francisco.
Credit...Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

With some 22 million ballots arriving in Californians’ mailboxes this week, voting has begun in Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election.

Between now and Sept. 14, voters will decide whether Newsom, a Democrat who won in a landslide in 2018, should be replaced — and if so, by whom.

Though the effort to recall the governor was once seen as improbable, recent polling shows it’s now a dead heat, as my colleagues reported on Tuesday.

Newsom has raised more campaign funds than all of his challengers combined, and less than a quarter of the state’s electorate is Republican, but neither will matter if not enough Democrats cast ballots in the election to counteract Republican enthusiasm for the ouster.

As election season heats up, I’ve got answers to all your questions about voting in the recall.

Monday was the last day for counties to mail out ballots, so yours should be en route if it has not already arrived at your home.

As with last year’s presidential election, every active registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail. If you want to know exactly where yours is, sign up for the state’s free ballot-tracking service.

Not sure if you’re registered? Check here and register here. There’s still time to receive a ballot.

Just two questions: Should Newsom be recalled? And which candidate should succeed him?

If you answer one question and not the other, your ballot will still be counted.

There are 46 candidates for governor on the ballot. A full list of their names is here.

If a majority of voters answer no to the first question — should Newsom be recalled? — then the governor keeps his job. If a majority vote yes, he’s out.

But then things get a little trickier. If voters choose to replace Newsom, the new governor will be the person who gets the most votes in the second question, even if it is far from a majority.

Here’s how that could play out: The current front-runner, the talk radio host Larry Elder, has around 20 percent support among people who want to recall Newsom, according to recent polling.

Say 51 percent of voters choose to recall Newsom and 20 percent pick Elder as the replacement. Elder would be our next governor.

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Credit...Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

This one is complicated. Newsom has been urging Democrats to ignore the question of who should replace him.

“One question. One answer. No on the recall. Move on. Send in the ballot,” Newsom said in a news conference over the weekend.

But some Democratic strategists think that’s unwise, as it “could produce a new governor chosen by only a small fraction of the electorate,” The Los Angeles Times reports. There are nine Democrats on the ballot, though none have significant support in the polls.

Newsom’s answer-only-the-first-question strategy is probably an attempt to avoid what happened in 2003, when Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and replaced with Arnold Schwarzenegger.

In that election, a prominent Democrat, Cruz Bustamante, was one of the replacement candidates. Some believe that Democratic voters may have voted to recall Davis because they thought he would be replaced by Bustamante, another Democrat.

The easiest thing is probably to turn it in at a drop box.

Here are links to drop box locations for the state’s 10 most populous counties: Los Angeles, San Diego, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, Santa Clara, Alameda, Sacramento, Contra Costa and Fresno. Residents elsewhere should visit their county website for information.

Alternatively, you can mail in your ballot as long as it’s postmarked by Sept. 14. Or you can vote in person anytime between Sept. 4 and Sept. 14.

Newsom’s replacement would govern for about a year, until Newsom’s term ends in January 2023. There will be another election in November 2022 to choose who will serve the next four-year term as California’s governor.

If recalled, Newsom can run again.

For more:

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Credit...John Francis Peters for The New York Times

To celebrate the centennial of their Craftsman home, a San Diego couple visited the county recorder’s office last year to cross off a sentence in their house’s deed — a line that had barred anyone “other than the White or Caucasian race” from owning their home.

For much of the 20th century, racial covenants were used across the United States. And though they are now illegal, the ugly language remains in numerous property records. Read more.


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Credit...Allison Zaucha for The New York Times

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  • Abandoned town sold: Desert Center, a deserted town halfway between Los Angeles and Phoenix, sold for $6.25 million in a probate sale; it includes a cafe built in 1908, a post office and a gas station, The Fresno Bee reports.

  • Online extremism: A San Diego man who investigators said made violent, racist threats against Black Lives Matter activists online was sentenced on Monday to two years in federal prison on weapons charges, The San Diego Union-Tribune reports.

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Credit...Ryan Liebe for The New York Times

These crispy cornmeal waffles are a weekend must-make and the perfect base for berry-jam fried chicken.


Today’s California travel tip comes from June Oberdorfer, a reader who lives in San Jose. June recommends Malakoff Diggins State Historic Park near Nevada City:

It was the largest hydraulic gold mine, causing extensive environmental damage both at the site and downstream. There is a small town (original name: Humbug) and a number of hikes: a loop through the floor of the mine where you can see how nature is reclaiming the destroyed area, and a longer loop around the cliffs above.

Tell us about the best spots to visit in California. Email your suggestions to CAtoday@nytimes.com. We’ll be sharing more in upcoming editions of the newsletter.


A 29-year-old in Riverside recently reconnected with his father after finding him through Ancestry.com, The Los Angeles Times reports.

After decades apart, the two men discovered that their left eyes both squint when they smile and that they share a love of reading. For the pair, the reunion “was the bright spot of a dark pandemic year.”


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