The ballot for Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election will only have two questions: do you want to remove the governor, and who should replace him?
You can fill out — or skip — either question, and it won't affect how your vote is counted, California election officials say.
Newsom is urging his supporters to skip the second half of the recall ballot, which asks voters to choose a successor if the governor is successfully recalled in the Sept. 14 election.
“One vote and done,” Newsom said during a recent virtual rally with Democratic women. He urged them to “vote no” on the first part of the ballot, which asks whether the governor should be recalled — or removed — from office.
California Democratic Party Chairman Rusty Hicks is also encouraging voters to skip the second question.
No other Democrat with political experience is running as a replacement and the party wants to appear united behind the governor. Democrats also want to avoid a repeat of confusing messaging in the 2003 recall of former Gov. Gray Davis, when Lt. Governor Cruz Bustamante ran as a replacement and urged people to “vote no on recall, yes on Bustamante.”
Some voters have expressed confusion and uncertainty about voting in the recall, or are inadvertently spreading incorrect information, such as the suggestion that if a voter votes “No” on the recall, they cannot vote for a candidate listed on the second question.
The Secretary of State’s office cleared up any confusion.
“Regardless of how a voter responds to the question of recalling the governor, they can still cast a vote for a potential replacement candidate,” said spokesperson Jenna Dresner. “The votes for each question are counted separately, so your vote for one question does not impact your ability to vote on another, that includes leaving a question blank.”
Kim Alexander, president of the nonpartisan California Voter Foundation, said the recall ballot is “challenging” even though it’s only two questions, in part because the phrasing of the recall questions is counterintuitive.
“If you want to vote for Newsom, you vote no on the recall,” she said. “And if you want to vote against Newsom, you vote for the recall.”
Alexander said it’s OK for Newsom and the California Democratic Party to urge voters to vote a certain way or skip a question altogether, the same way they would endorse, oppose or remain neutral on ballot propositions or other election candidates.
“It's better to tell people to skip it than to just be silent on that question, which is what the original position was of the Democratic campaign,” she said.
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