California voters were called to the voting booth on Tuesday to decide whether or not to recall Democrat Governor Gavin Newsom.
Republicans are seeking to oust the incumbent by means of the recall process in the country’s most populous, and largely Democrat-leaning, state.
Newsom’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic has angered many Californians, especially conservatives, but he remains ahead in the polls. He won a landslide victory for the post in 2018.
Polls are set to close at 8 p.m. local time (03:00 UTC on Wednesday), but results are likely to take a while due to the large number of ballots to be counted.
The recall process has been questioned over its cost and quirkiness. Voters are first asked if they think Newsom should stay in power, and then asked who they think should replace him if not.
Newsom has to win over 50% of the first votes to keep his job. If he fails to, then whichever challenger receives the most votes will become governor — no matter how many, or few, votes they win.
Newsom’s main challenger is Republican Larry Elder, a talk show host who openly supports Donald Trump and has followed in the former president’s footsteps by claiming election fraud before the votes are in.
According to US news channel CNN, the first wave of early votes will likely lean heavily towards the Democrat — more than 8 million of 22 million voters mailed in ballots before polling day — with a second wave of Republican votes expected after that as in-person votes are tallied up.
President Joe Biden was in California late on Monday to support Newsom. He warned of the consequences of losing the state to the Democrats, saying that it would impact the entire country’s direction in terms of the pandemic, reproductive rights and the fight against climate change.
“The eyes of the nation are on California,” he warned. The recall vote is “going to reverberate around the nation and … around the world.” He also called Elder a “clone” of Trump.
Voters are set to return to the polls again next year for the standard governor election
Trump himself, who continues to peddle misinformation about the 2020 presidential election, asked on Monday: “Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn’t rigged?”
The criticism has focused on mail-in ballots, however, an overwhelming majority of Californians voted by mail even before the pandemic and there have been no cases of widespread voter fraud.
ab/msh (AP, Reuters, AFP)