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Early Ballot Returns Show Strong Interest in Newsom Recall



11% of California voters have returned their ballots in the Sept. 14 gubernatorial recall election. (Shutterstock)
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Based on early returns, it appears Democrats and Republicans are paying closer attention to California’s Sept. 14 gubernatorial recall than expected by election experts.

“Statewide, Dems are overperforming in 52 counties, Republicans are overperforming in 28, and Independents are overperforming in two.” —  Paul Mitchell, Political Data Inc.

As of Wednesday, Aug. 25, 11% of the state’s registered voters had returned ballots answering whether Gov. Gavin Newsom should be recalled.

Low Turnout Is the Norm in Special Elections

Special elections in California typically have turnouts of 33% or less, and analysts have predicted a similar percentage for this recall.

However, the successful recall of Gov. Gray Davis and selection of Arnold Schwarzenegger as his replacement in 2003 generated a 61.4% turnout.

Thus far, voter participation is beating expectations.

“Statewide, Dems are overperforming in 52 counties, Republicans are overperforming in 28, and Independents are overperforming in two,” said Paul Mitchell of Political Data Inc.

Democrats have mailed in about two-and-half times more ballots than Republicans (1,310,154 to 546,152), according to Mitchell.

Through a different lens: 13% of the state’s 10.3 million Democrats have sent back ballots compared to 10% of the 5.3 million Republicans.

The electorate includes 6.5 million voters who decline to state a party. Eight percent of the independents have voted.

“It’s independents, as one might expect, who are really underperforming,” Mitchell said.

18% of San Diego, Santa Clara Ballots Are In

Interest in the recall — again, based on early returns — appears highest in Santa Clara (18% of ballots in), San Diego (18%), Alameda (12%), and Los Angeles (11%).

Newsom and state Democratic Party leaders are concerned that their voters will sit out the recall, resulting in a Republican victory.

Perhaps the emergence of conservative talk-show host Larry Elder as the leading Republican candidate has energized Democrats. Newsom also has a massive campaign chest ( $59 million and counting) to whip up enthusiasm.

And, in recent days, he has appealed to Hollywood celebrities to publicly endorse him in an attempt to mobilize young voters, according to The Hollywood Reporter.

Will GOP Voters Wait Until Sept. 14?

Expect Republicans to turn out in big numbers on election day.

While GOP constituents traditionally were enthusiastic vote-by-mail voters, that changed in 2020 as President Donald Trump attacked mail voting.

Attendees at Elder’s rally on Sunday in Fresno told GV Wire’s Liz Juarez that they would wait until election day to cast their votes.

You can sign up for Mitchell’s election tracker emails at this link.


Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email