California Gov. Gavin Newsom will remain in office

By Veronica Rocha, Melissa Macaya, Meg Wagner, Maureen Chowdhury, Mike Hayes and Melissa Mahtani, CNN

Updated 8:07 a.m. ET, September 15, 2021
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5:38 p.m. ET, September 14, 2021

For these young Californians, the recall election brings an opportunity to vote for the first time

From CNN's Rachel Janfaza

For some 18-year-olds, today's California recall election will be an opportunity to cast a ballot for the first time.

On both sides of the aisle, newly-eligible voters told CNN they were eager to participate in the special election to decide Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom’s fate.

For her part, Camille Colker was frustrated when she missed the ability to vote in the 2020 presidential election by just two days.

So when Colker — who turned 18 on Nov. 5, 2020 — received her mail-in ballot for the recall, she jumped at the opportunity to return it.

Colker voted "no" on the recall, citing environmental justice, pandemic response and misinformation as the issues "at stake," in Tuesday’s election.

“I felt excited to be voting, but also incredibly pressured,” Colker said, given what she described as the seriousness of each of these issues.

Likewise, Victoria DaSilva, who turned 18 in March, said she was “excited there was an opportunity” to vote “so soon,” as she thought she would have to wait until the 2022 midterms to cast her first ballot.

“I was so happy that I was able to finally participate in government because I just feel like it’s so important to be an active member in our government,” said DaSilva, who is from Manhattan Beach and an incoming freshman at University of California at Los Angeles (UCLA). “Even though it was just one question, I was glad to be able to make my voice count a little bit.”

DaSilva, who voted "no" on the recall and returned her ballot Monday, said she has always “taken for granted” living in a Democratic state and worries that Tuesday’s election “could turn that around.”

Meanwhile, Jerri Lopez, who turned 18 in May, said voting in the recall election was “an awesome experience.”

“I couldn’t vote in this past presidential election, which really bummed me out, so I was thrilled knowing I could vote in the recall,” said Lopez, a San Diego native and freshman at University of Southern California. 

Lopez voted "yes" to recall Newsom and told CNN that “overall unity in California is at stake in this recall.”

She said she worries about “strict” mask mandates, vaccine mandates and “potentially another shut down in regards to Covid” if Newsom were to stay in power. 

Lopez voted to replace Newsom with Republican candidate Larry Elder. 

And while Marin Ruiz, who is 19, voted for the first time in the 2020 presidential election, she said the recall provided her with “the most exposure and first-hand experience” she’s had so far to the Republican Party. 

“This recall feels more real to me personally, just because I feel like my vote counts more than in a presidential election. It literally hits closer to home,” Ruiz, who is the president of the University of Southern California College Republicans, told CNN. 

“Californians have experienced the effect of policies first hand during the past year,” Ruiz said, adding that unemployment, crime rates, school closings and mask mandates are all issues at stake in the recall.

Last weekend, Ruiz knocked on doors to get out the vote in San Bernardino, California, where she met Elder.

4:24 p.m. ET, September 14, 2021

This is what it’s like inside a San Francisco voting center

From CNN's Janelle Davis

CNN's Josh Campbell is inside San Francisco City Hall, one of the voting locations and ballot processing centers.

In the voting center, voters can ask questions and drop off their ballot in person. Right now, the area where voters line up is empty. Authorities say it's likely because of two reasons:

  • First, people voted by mail.
  • Second, they're waiting to come vote after work.

In the ballot processing center, the ballot counting is already underway. The ballots are coming in from the postal service from precincts across the city. This part of California, around San Francisco and the Bay area, is very blue. President Biden won by a wide margin and Gov. Gavin Newsom had a comfortable lead in last election. Newsom is from the Bay area. Democratic consultants say they're focusing on the turnout to offset red surges in other regions.

For more from our reporters in the field, and to watch Josh Campbell's @CNN's Instagram story, click here.

3:48 p.m. ET, September 14, 2021

More than 9.1 million pre-election ballots have been cast in the California recall

From CNN's Ethan Cohen

According to updated data from Edison Research, more than 9.1 million pre-election ballots have been cast in the California recall.

Total ballots cast as of Sept. 13 is 9,109,956.

That’s about 51% of the total votes cast in the state in 2020.

About 52% of the ballots for which Edison has data on party were cast by registered Democrats and 26% were cast by registered Republicans.

3:03 p.m. ET, September 14, 2021

No, California isn't the only state with recalls: CNN answers your Election Day questions

From CNN's Janelle Davis

Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP
Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP

CNN’s National Political Reporter Maeve Reston is in California ahead of today’s special election to decide whether to remove Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom.

She's answering some readers' most-asked questions — here's how she puts it:

Is California the only state to have gubernatorial recalls?

No, many other states do as well, but they all have very different rules. The rules in California are very quirky. The proponents of the recall had to gather 1.4 million signatures last year, and they got a huge boost from a judge who gave them four extra months to collect the signatures. At the time, there was a lot of anger at Newsom for what a lot of people thought were shifting Covid-19 regulations and frustration about his closure of the beaches and school.

California does have a lower bar for recalls than other states. There are some people who are looking to change those rules after all of this is over. 

Are the polls predicting that Newsom will be recalled?

Newsom is looking safer in a recent poll. Of course, we don't know until all the votes are counted tonight. It was tight in late July and early August — It looked like it was like a 49-51 split on the recall.

Since then, Newsom’s team plunged millions and millions of dollars into ads and their ground game. And now they’re feeling safer. The most recent polls show Newsom having a much more comfortable lead on the recall question, with more voters saying no to the recall.

But it comes down to turnout. Republicans are hoping for a really high turnout on Election Day.

A lot of the ballots are already in. About 8.4 million ballots have been mailed in. A lot of those ballots have been from Democrats so far. We expect that because these days Republicans prefer to vote in person, particularly because of some of the concerns that former President Trump raised about mail-in ballots. So, we’ll have to see where that lands tonight.

Polls close at 8 p.m. PT.

How did this start in the first place?

A small group of conservatives got this going early last year because of Newsom’s positions on immigration, taxes, the death penalty and other issues.

But then, as Covid-19 restrictions went into effect, things really started to heat up. Parents, business owners and restaurant owners were getting really frustrated with Newsom’s Covid rules.

Then he made an infamous visit to The French Laundry, an exclusive restaurant in Napa Valley. He was unmasked at a birthday party being held for a lobbyist. At the time, Newsom had been telling Californians to stay home, wear a mask and avoid large gatherings, and some viewed this as hypocrisy.

Watch more from Reston:

4:58 p.m. ET, September 14, 2021

5 key areas to watch in the California recall

From CNN's Maeve Reston

With all eyes turning to California on Tuesday to see whether Gov. Gavin Newsom is recalled, a few places within the Golden State could offer some early clues — not only about whether the Democratic governor can keep his job — but also what the political climate might look like next year in a state where Republicans picked up four House seats in 2020.

Republicans' best scenario for ousting Newsom in this overwhelmingly blue state has always been outsized GOP turnout and low Democratic turnout. That's because registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by nearly 2 to 1.

All of the state's 22 million registered voters were mailed ballots last month. All counties were also required to make one or more early voting locations available for at least four days beginning the Saturday before the election, and many kept them open longer.

So there's already significant data about who's casting votes. Republicans are hoping for a massive Election Day turnout that could tip the scales.

But so far, Democrats have been more engaged than expected. About 53% of ballots cast so far have been from registered Democrats and 25% from registered Republicans, according to Political Data Inc., a firm that does work for Democratic candidates, progressive organizations and nonpartisan campaigns. That means Democrats are still outperforming their registration level in the state.

But to see whether that turnout advantage holds (and translates into Newsom's survival), here are some specific places to watch on Tuesday.

  1. The Big Blue areas where Democrats must perform
  2. One-time GOP strongholds
  3. Flipped districts
  4. The Central Valley
  5. LA County's and Imperial County's Latino communities

Read more about each place here.

12:41 p.m. ET, September 14, 2021

Why the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom is happening

From CNN's Maeve Reston and Ethan Cohen

Te recall gathered steam late last year at a time when many Californians were frustrated with Gov. Gavin Newsom's restrictive response to the pandemic and what some viewed as erratic rules and regulations for businesses and restaurants.

The major turning point for recall organizers came in November when Newsom attended a friend's birthday party at a lavish French restaurant in Napa Valley at a time when he was urging Californians to stay home and avoid large gatherings with multiple households.

Newsom apologized, calling the dinner "a bad mistake," but it was widely perceived as hypocritical and grossly out of touch when many Californians were struggling.

Both fundraising and signature petition-gathering accelerated for recall proponents, who had to gather 1,495,709 valid petition signatures to qualify (the equivalent of 12% of the votes cast for the office of governor in 2018).

At that opportune time for Republicans in mid-November, a judge extended the deadline for recall supporters to collect signatures by four months. Ultimately, they easily surpassed the total needed for the recall to qualify.

After a series of procedural steps — including the verification of the signatures on the petitions by county election officials — the state's lieutenant governor called the election for Sept. 14.

The state's Department of Finance has estimated the cost will be $276 million.

12:19 p.m. ET, September 14, 2021

The polls aren't even closed, and some Republicans are already alleging fraud

From CNN's Daniel Dale

Larry Elder takes questions from the media during a campaign stop outside the Hall of Justice downtown Los Angeles Thursday, September 2, 2021.
Larry Elder takes questions from the media during a campaign stop outside the Hall of Justice downtown Los Angeles Thursday, September 2, 2021. Damian Dovarganes/AP

Polls suggest California voters are poised to defeat an effort to recall the state's Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom

The polls could be wrong or change fast. At present, though, their findings are entirely unremarkable. California has nearly twice as many registered Democrats as registered Republicans. Newsom was elected by almost 24 percentage points in 2018. With one notable exception, in 2003, every previous attempt to recall a California governor has failed.

But this is the era of the Big Lie.

Influenced by former President Donald Trump's serial lying about the 2020 election he lost, many Republican voters are now suspicious, for no good reason, about the integrity of American elections in general. And prominent Republicans know how to rile up the crowd they created.

With Tuesday's Election Day fast approaching, Trump and other right-wing figures, including top Newsom replacement candidate Larry Elder, have started to lay the groundwork to baselessly dismiss a potential Newsom victory as a product of Democratic cheating.

The rhetoric from Trump and Elder mirrors what happened in the weeks leading up to Election Day 2020, when Trump and his allies relentlessly pushed the lie that Democrats could not possibly beat him in an election that wasn't "rigged." And it benefits from years of additional dishonesty, by Trump and others, portraying California as a cesspool of mass illegal voting.

In a Newsmax television interview last Tuesday, Trump called the California recall "probably rigged." Trump escalated his dishonesty in a written statement on Monday, saying: "Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn't rigged? Millions and millions of Mail-In Ballots will make this just another giant Election Scam, no different, but less blatant, than the 2020 Presidential Election Scam!"

Elder's campaign website now features a link to a website that makes baseless and vague assertions of fraud in the recall and urges residents to sign a petition "demanding a special session of the California legislature to investigate and ameliorate the twisted results of this 2021 Recall Election of Governor Gavin Newsom." Again, because Election Day hadn't arrived yet, there were not yet any results at all at the time Elder's campaign began promoting this petition, let alone "twisted" results.

Elder, prompted by a Fox News host, said Monday that he is "worried about fraud," and he promoted the "election integrity project" featured on his website. And in a Monday interview with Jacob Soboroff, an NBC News and MSNBC correspondent, Elder would not commit to accepting the result of the election, saying instead that "we all ought to be looking at election integrity."

Elder made similar remarks last week. At a campaign event last Wednesday, Elder said, "We've heard a lot of things that have been suspicious so far," declared that "they're gonna cheat, we know that," and promised to file lawsuits. Earlier in the day, he told reporters, "I believe that there might very well be shenanigans, as it were in the 2020 election." (Elder did say both times that so many voters are angry at the situation under Newsom that the recall will succeed anyway.)

Read more about claims from others here.

12:20 p.m. ET, September 14, 2021

More than 40 candidates are vying to replace Newsom

Analysis from CNN's Zachary B. Wolf

Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images
Robyn Beck/AFP/Getty Images

The rules of the California gubernatorial recall are many, detailed and confusing, but the bottom line is that if any less than half of the voters who take part oppose the recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom, he'll be out of office.

The top vote-getter of the 46 people running to replace Newsom, no matter how few votes that person gets, will be in.

Most of the candidates vying to replace Newsom are Republicans and several have gotten more attention than others.

Larry Elder is a conservative radio host and would be the state's first Black governor. But he's run into some major scrutiny for previous comments about women and has been accused of domestic violence and brandishing a gun in 2015. He denies the allegation made by his then-fiancée and former employee Alexandra Datig.

Businessman John Cox, who lost to Newsom in the 2018 election, has been touring the state with a Kodiak bear. Former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer, also a Republican, has criticized Elder and said he would be more supportive of women during a recent debate. Neither Elder, Newsom, nor Caitlyn Jenner, the reality TV star and former Olympian, went to the debate last month.

Former Congressman Doug Ose, who was one of the 46 candidates who had qualified for the recall ballot, dropped out of the race after he was treated for a heart attack. He said in a statement that he is expecting a full recovery but ended his campaign because he needs to focus on rehabilitation. He has endorsed Assemblyman Kevin Kiley.

11:24 a.m. ET, September 14, 2021

Key things to know about the California recall election

From CNN's Ethan Cohen

Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP
Ringo H.W. Chiu/AP

Voters in California are heading to the polls to decide whether to remove Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom today.

Here's what to know about the election:

  • How was the recall triggered? The race was triggered after opponents of Newsom gathered 1,719,900 signatures. 1,495,709 were required (12% of the votes cast in the last gubernatorial election).
  • What's on the ballot? Two questions will be on the ballot. The first will be a yes or no on recalling Newsom, and the second will be a choice between the 46 candidates running to replace him. Newsom isn’t a replacement option. If a majority votes yes on the recall question, the top replacement candidate will become governor. If a majority votes no, Newsom remains in office.
  • The voting process:
  • Every active voter in the state has been mailed a ballot for the recall. Those ballots must be returned either in person by the close of polls on Election Day or postmarked by Election Day and received by county officials by Sept. 21.
  • Voters also have the option of voting in person, either early or on Election Day. Early voting dates and times vary by county.
  • Polls are open from 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. ET. California is on Pacific Time.