The recall effort aimed at ousting Gov. Gavin Newsom saw a swift defeat after preliminary results showed that 63.9% of the state’s ballots counted Tuesday favored keeping the governor in office.
According to the latest tally from the Secretary of State’s Office, 9,176,526 ballots were cast in the election as of Wednesday, representing a 41% turnout statewide. Of the ballots counted thus far, more than 5.8 million voters voted “no” on the recall effort, and more than 3.2 million voted “yes.”
The total number of ballots cast is likely to increase in the coming week as counties continue to report mail-in ballots postmarked on Tuesday and tally provisional ballots cast in person. According to the secretary of state’s website, the results of the election will be certified on Oct. 22.
In Santa Barbara County, the elections office reported that 105,213 ballots were counted as of Tuesday night. Of these, more than 97,800 ballots were cast by mail, and nearly 7,400 were cast in person.
According to Joseph Holland, the county’s registrar of voters, more than 41,000 ballots have yet to be counted in the county, bringing the total number of ballots cast to more than 146,000. He said the elections office expects that number to increase as mail-in ballots postmarked on Tuesday will be delivered to the county’s Election Division this week.
Mr. Holland said voter turnout in this election is currently hovering around 61-62%. He noted that during the 2003 recall election that removed Gov. Gray Davis from office, voter turnout was at 66%, and the county had about 192,000 registered voters at this time. In this year’s recall, more than 238,000 ballots were sent out to registered voters.
“It was a very very robust turnout,” Mr. Holland said of this year’s recall election.
According to the county’s preliminary results, 65% of voters voted “no” on the ballot, and 35% voted yes. Of the residents who voted for a replacement candidate on the ballot, 44.5% voted for the leading Republican candidate Larry Elder, 10.3% voted for Democrat Kevin Paffrath and 7% voted for former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer. These candidates were among 46 candidates vying for the governorship.
On election night, Mr. Holland said about a dozen skeptical community members showed up after polls closed at 8 p.m. Tuesday, asking to observe how the ballots were being counted.
Mr. Holland said he was happy to show the community members how the process works, and he invites anyone interested in learning about the procedures to come and observe how the remaining ballots are counted over the next few days.
“We brought them all in. We gave them a tour, we explained everything going on, showed all the security features and showed the process,” Mr. Holland said. “And by the time they left, they were all just amazed at the complexity of the process and the integrity of the process, and they were thanking us for letting them see what we do.”
While certified election results from the state are still pending, The Associated Press called the race in favor of Gov. Newsom within an hour of the polls closing Tuesday night. According to the AP, with just two-thirds of ballots counted on Tuesday night, the number of “no” votes put the governor ahead by a 30-point margin.
“It appears we are enjoying an overwhelmingly ‘no’ vote tonight here in the state of California, but ‘no’ is not the only thing that was expressed tonight,” Gov. Newsom said during a press conference after the results were announced Tuesday.
“We said yes to science. We said yes to vaccines. We said yes to ending this pandemic. We said yes to people’s right to vote without fear of fake fraud and voter suppression. We said yes to women’s fundamental constitutional right to decide for herself what she does with her body, her faith, her future. We said yes to diversity.”
Critics of Gov. Newsom, who led the recall effort, cited his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, school and business closures, and his infamous appearance at the French Laundry dinner party during the winter lockdown as reasons for his removal. Recall proponents have also slammed the governor for his handling of the homeless crisis in the state, high taxes and the increasing price of gas.
But with Tuesday’s preliminary results putting Gov. Newsom on top, his supporters say the results indicate the majority of voters are pleased with the direction the state is going.
“This (election) was much bigger than just about Newsom — it was just about our state in general, and voters responded in support with the direction that California is going,” Darcel Elliott, the chairwoman of the county’s Democratic Party, told the News-Press Wednesday.
She added that locally, many voters have told her that they are happy with how the governor has responded to COVID-19, that they believe in his climate policies and that they appreciate the renter protection he spearheaded during the pandemic.
In response to the results of the election released Tuesday night, Mr. Elder, the leading Republican candidate, addressed his supporters at an election party in Orange County, encouraging them to be “gracious in defeat.”
“We may have lost the battle, but we’re going to win the war,” Mr. Elder said.
Bobbi McGinnis, the chairwoman of the county’s Republican Party, told the News-Press Wednesday that while Gov. Newsom prevailed in the election, the results show he has “lost ground” in certain regions of the state, pointing to counties in Northern California where the majority of voters voted “yes” on the ballot.
While Ms. McGinnis and other members of the county’s Republican Party were hoping for a different outcome in the recall election, she said the recall effort brought about a “ground swelling” of volunteers across the state looking for “sensible governance.”
“We will continue to work for a more sensible, common-sense government,” Ms. McGinnis said. “We are looking forward to 2022. We are looking for common-sense candidates and moving the needle more toward common-sense governance.”
The recall election came with an estimated $276 million price tag for the state, which will be paid for through taxpayer dollars. While Ms. McGinnis said this cost was “absolutely worth it” because of Gov. Newsom’s alleged “mismanaged and wasted” taxpayer money, Ms. Elliott said she believes the money could have been used for other purposes.
“(Republicans) cost us almost $300 million to do an exercise to see if they are still relevant, and overwhelmingly voters said no,” Ms. Elliott said. “That is money we could have used for relief for people struggling during the pandemic, and it instead was used to see if the Republican Party had any viability in California.”
Gov. Newsom will be up for re-election in November 2022. His first term as governor officially ends in January 2023.