Newsom Recall Opponents Divided on Response to Ballot Question Two

Confusion and contradiction swirl around whether pro-Newsom voters should fill in the second question on the recall election ballot.

In Shasta County, a small group of local Democrats rallied Saturday morning to encourage their fellow constituents to vote no on the upcoming recall of Governor Newsom. The gubernatorial recall election is projected to cost the state and local counties $276 million. Mail-in ballots for the September 14 election went out across Shasta County this week.

About 30 pro-Newsom activists gathered Saturday to encourage a no vote on the recall, holding signs and waving to passing cars.

Signs for the No on Newsom Recall Rally. Photo by Annelise Pierce

But while rally participants universally support a “no” vote on the recall itself, they were divided on how to the answer the second question on the recall ballot.

The California Gubernatorial Recall Election ballot’s first question asks whether Newsom should be recalled. The second question is posed as a statement, “Candidates to succeed Gavin Newsom as Governor if he is recalled: Vote for One.” That question is followed by a list of 46 candidates for Governor as well as a blank line where voters can write in a qualified candidate of their choice.

The California Democratic Party recommends voting no on the recall and leaving the second question of the ballot blank. Many Shasta Democrats are following these instructions, including local labor organizer Sarah Casia who told Shasta Scout why.

“Not only does the Democratic Party suggest that, but also the union I work for,” Casia said. “The reason is that we don’t have a strong Democrat running (against Newsom) so there is no second best option and we kind of have to put all our eggs in one basket.”

Recall opponents rallied Saturday morning in front of City Hall. Photo by Annelise Pierce.

But leaving the second question blank concerns some local Democratic voters. That’s because if more than 50% of voters choose to recall Newsom, the candidate with the highest percentage of votes on the second question of the ballot will become Governor to replace him, regardless of how few votes they receive.

Dana Dickey, said she and her husband have had conversations discussing what failing to choose a candidate on question two could mean for California. “What if he doesn’t win?” Dickey said, “Then the effects of omitting that second field are going to be tremendous.” Nevertheless, Dickey said, she has decided to leave the second question blank because she feels there is no viable alternative to Newsom.

The ballot process itself is also confusing some. Linda, who asked that only her first name be used, told Shasta Scout that a vote on the second question would invalidate her no vote on the first question. “If you vote on the other side you disqualify your ballot,” Linda said. Official elections information contradict that.

Information found on the Shasta County Elections website.

But based on responses to a Shasta Scout Instagram survey yesterday, this is one of several common misconceptions. Respondents were mixed on whether to leave the second question of the ballot blank. Some were also unsure about how Newsom’s replacement would be chosen if voters choose to recall, or remove, him, while others felt that choosing a candidate on the second question might invalidate their no vote on the recall.

Some worry that a widespread decision not to fill out the second question might leave the decision of who governs California next in the hands of Newsom opponents.

That’s what’s on Lisa Jensen’s mind. “Democrats aren’t thrilled with Newsom,” Jensen said, “and our complacency could create a situation where he does get recalled.”

If that happens, Jensen said, it’s important that she and other Newsom supporters have a voice in who replaces Newsom. “Leaving the second half of the ballot blank is not accepting the real possibility that the recall could happen,” Jensen said. “I wonder how many times we as Democrats get too comfortable thinking we have the majority.”

She also worries about another common misconception, that voters can write in Gavin Newsom’s name. State law does not allow Newsom to replace himself as Governor once recalled, so a vote for Newsom on ballot question 2 won’t count.

Jensen says she has decided to wait until closer to the election to vote so she can put her vote on the second question behind the most qualified candidate who seems to have a chance of winning should Newsom be recalled. It’s a decision echoed by some Newsom supporter’s who responded to Scout’s Instagram survey.

Neither the Democratic nor Republican parties have endorsed a candidate to replace Newsom. The field of candidates is broad and includes Shasta County resident Jenny Rae La Roux, a Republican who lists her occupation as business owner/mother.

Laura Erskine-Farley who attended Saturday’s event said Shasta County’s political climate have made her and others afraid to speak up on behalf of Newsom. But, the former teacher said, her fears about what could happen to California if Newsom is recalled worry her more. She is particularly concerned about candidates who might eliminate California’s COVID restrictions.

In March, Californians submitted more than 2 million signatures calling for Newsom’s recall. The number of valid signatures exceeded the 12% of California voter signatures needed to generate a recall election. More than 10% of Shasta County’s population submitted signatures calling for Newsom’s recall.

It’s the first time in almost twenty years that California will hold a recall election. Organizers of the Newsom recall cites concerns about COVID-19 restrictions, vaccine mandates immigration policies, high costs of living, and more.

The California Gubernatorial Recall Election will be held September 14, 2021.

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