Early Recall Election Could Compromise Vote, California Officials Warn

By Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times.
June 18, 2021 Updated: June 20, 2021

As California lawmakers attempt to move up the date of Gov. Gavin Newsom’s recall election, officials are pleading for an efficient and transparent election.

Concerns arose after senators Toni G. Atkins (D-San Diego) and Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) said on June 10 that the election could be held 30 days earlier than previously anticipated by including $215 million in the budget bill.

The recall otherwise would have been stalled for up to 30 days while the budget committee reviewed and provided an estimate for the gubernatorial election.

“Our local communities don’t deserve to be saddled with unnecessary recall costs as they work to recover from the pandemic,” Atkins and Rendon said in a joint statement. “The Legislature will lift the burden from their plate and include $215 million in the budget bill to have the state cover the costs. In addition, this funding will allow for an earlier recall election.

“By providing counties with the funding they need, we can waive the required period for the Joint Legislative Budget Committee to review the election costs.”

However, the move doesn’t sit well with some California registrars.

“We were caught off guard when we received that notification that the legislature was attempting to waive the 30 days requirement,” Sutter County Registrar of Voters Donna Johnston told The Epoch Times.

Following the notification from lawmakers, election officials wrote a letter to California Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, urging her to not call an early recall election.

“The California Association of Clerks and Election Officials [CACEO] members are committed to running an efficient, accurate, cost-effective, and transparent election,” the letter said. “We urge the Lieutenant Governor’s office [to] take our concerns seriously, which will allow us to conduct a successful election process. We owe this to our voters.”

Concerns among California registrars include the inability to supply ballots to residents in time for the recall election. If the election is called for August or early September, officials said they would not be able to provide residents with ballots in time.

Securing voting locations on short notice would also be a challenge, they said, as would hiring people to staff the sites.

The ability to provide overseas military with ballots with enough time to cast them is also uncertain. Election officials said that under federal mandate, military members must receive their ballots between 45 and 60 days before an election.

California’s last gubernatorial recall election was held in 2003, when former governor Gray Davis lost his seat to Arnold Schwarzenegger.

“Eighteen years ago, was the last time California conducted a statewide recall election, and people naturally will compare 2003 with today,” officials wrote. “While counties were able to conduct a successful election process in 2003, we need to be mindful that there have been significant changes in the population, the demographics and the way California conducts elections since that time.”

Other logistical challenges include renting vehicles for ballot transportation.

Johnston said that there is a demand nationally for rentals, and securing the necessary vehicles might not be possible.

“All these things normally take months, but we generally prepare for an election almost a year in advance,” Johnston said.

She said she’s not sure why some elected officials are pushing for an earlier recall date, but one thing is for certain: an August election would create plenty of behind-the-scenes chaos.

“The sooner it is, the more overtime we’re going to have to put in, so we’ve got staffing concerns for that,” she said. “We usually call in anywhere from hundreds to thousands of co-workers depending on the size of the county, and usually that onboarding process can take a few months to accomplish.”

Johnston said the hiring process can take a few months to complete as some counties have different requirements, such as background checks.

Proposed legislation by lawmakers also entails conducting the recall as a regular election with special election rules being excluded.

Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna
Vanessa Serna is a California-based daily news reporter for The Epoch Times.