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How To Vote, Confirm And Track Your Ballot For The Recall Election Of Gov. Newsom

A ballot is being dropped in the slot at an official County of Los Angeles ballot drop box. Only the voter's hands are visible.
Drop boxes will be available throughout L.A. County to cast your vote in the Sept. 14 recall election.
(Libby Denkmann /LAist)
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Ballots are in the mail — and may have already arrived at your door — for the Sept. 14 recall election targeting Governor Gavin Newsom.

The last statewide recall was in 2003, so you’d be forgiven for forgetting how this works.

With that in mind, let’s review some basics.

What’s Actually On The Ballot?

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Two questions:

The first is “yes” or “no,” and it states:

“Shall GAVIN NEWSOM be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor?”

If more than 50% of voters say “yes,” on this one, Newsom will be booted from office.

That’s when the second question comes into play: Voters can pick between 46 candidates who have been certified to appear on the ballot, vying to replace Newsom for the rest of his term, ending in Jan. 2023.

According to recent polling, the frontrunners are all Republicans. They include talk show host Larry Elder, former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, businessman John Cox, Assemblymember Kevin Kiley and former Congressman Doug Ose. (Four candidates recently participated in a televised debate at the Nixon Library.)

If the recall is successful, the replacement candidate will only have to win a plurality of support — more than their opponents, not a majority of all voters — to be the next governor of California. But if voters reject the first question by voting “no” on the recall, Newsom will still be governor. And several of the top recall candidates have signaled they will run against him in the regularly scheduled gubernatorial election in 2022.

Can I Leave A Question Blank?

Yes. Your ballot will still be counted if you only choose to vote in one of the questions.

Keep in mind that you may vote “no” on the recall itself (question #1) and still pick a preferred replacement candidate in the second question. Your “no” vote will not be invalidated.

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How Does Voting By Mail Work In A Pandemic?

Just as in last year’s presidential election, every registered voter in California will be mailed a ballot for the Sept. 14 recall.

You have several options for casting that ballot:

  • Complete the ballot at home and drop it off in-person. Beginning Monday Aug. 16, ballot drop boxes are available 24/7 leading up to the election. (Check out this list of Orange County drop boxes; L.A. County says their locations will be posted here.)
  • If you choose to send your ballot in via regular mail, it must be postmarked by Election Day and arrive at the county election’s office within 7 days following the election. (There’s no postage required, so don’t stress if you can’t find a stamp.)

However you return your ballot, it’s important to sign and date in the place indicated on the return envelope. Elections officials will check your signature against the one they have on file — most recommend signing the way you did on your driver’s license. If your ballot is rejected for a signature mismatch, county registrars must notify you to give you a chance to fix (or “cure”) it.

How Do I Get More Peace Of Mind?

The Secretary of State offers a “Where’s My Ballot” tool that will let you know when your vote has been processed. It’s also the fastest way to find out if there were any problems verifying your signature or voting eligibility.

If you're not sure if you're currently registered to vote, you can check on the California Secretary of State's website.

What If I Like To Vote In-Person Or Need Help With My Ballot?

Ten days of in-person voting at locations around L.A. and Orange counties will begin Saturday, Sept. 4. More locations open up Sept. 11 for the final 4 days of voting.

You can also vote early in-person at the Norwalk headquarters of the L.A. County Registrar-Recorder starting Aug. 16. Hours are weekdays 8 AM - 5 PM. More info here.

Say, Theoretically, I’m A Procrastinator…?

You can register to vote up to and including Election Day in California. Go in-person to any vote center to sign up. Note: If you’re registering within 14 days of an election, you will likely fill out a provisional ballot, which will be counted when election officials confirm your eligibility to vote.