California taxpayers pay $276 million for failed attempt to recall Gavin Newsom

Previous recall in 2003 estimated to cost between $53m and $66m

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 15 September 2021 17:54
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Related video: California Governor Gavin Newsom defeats recall election

The failed attempt to recall Democratic Governor Gavin Newsom is expected to cost California taxpayers $276m, estimates from the Golden State’s Department of Finance from earlier this year shows.

Before a date for the election was decided, the department was required to submit estimates to the office of California Secretary of State Shirley Weber for how much the recall was expected to cost.

Early June estimates from the Department of Finance showed that the recall would cost $215m. But after state lawmakers approved a bill to move up the election date and the proposal was signed by Mr Newsom, the department revised its estimation, adding $28.4m for counties across California and an extra $32.4m on the state level, for a total of $276m.

While election day was on Tuesday, 14 September, many voters cast their ballots by mail ahead of polling day. Mr Newsom had previously signed an executive order to allow all voters to receive a mail-in ballot for the 2020 elections and extended that order to include 2021.

Mr Newsom’s current term ends in January 2023 and he’s up for reelection in the 2022 midterms. He’s currently in his first term as governor after serving as lieutenant governor from 2011 to 2019 and San Francisco mayor from 2004 to 2011.

California adopted the recall process into state law in 1911 and Mr Newsom is only the second governor to face the procedure.

Democrat Gray Davis was the first governor to face a recall, he was removed in 2003 and replaced with Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger, who served until 2011.

Ahead of the 2003 recall election, state officials estimated that the election would cost taxpayers between $53m and $66m.

The petition that led to the recall was first filed in 2020. The organisers were given until March to gather enough signatures to qualify for the recall. Once that was achieved, the September election date was set in July.

Polling in July and August showed a tight race for Mr Newsom’s removal, but his support grew steadier as election day neared.

As of midday on Wednesday, 68 per cent of the votes had been reported, with 63.9 per cent voting no on recalling Mr Newsom, and 36.1 per cent voting yes.

Mr Newsom and other Democrats have argued that the recall effort was motivated by disappointed far-right Trump supporters.

The Independent has reached out to the office of the California Secretary of State for comment.

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