SAVE THE DATE: California’s Governor Recall Election on September 14, 2021 (Part 2)

Part II of II

Continuing from last week’s article, there is an important election coming up in California that voters may not be aware of! On September 14, 2021, California is having a Gubernatorial (Governor) Recall Election, in which we will vote whether to recall (remove) Governor Gavin Newsom. If he is recalled, he will be replaced by the candidate who receives the most votes—no matter how small a percentage of voters (for example, if the candidate with the most votes has only received 10% of the votes cast overall, they would still succeed Newsom if he is recalled).

Last week, we talked about the history of Gubernatorial Recall Elections (also called Special Elections) in California and how they work. This week, we’re focusing on what’s at stake specifically in this year’s Special Election, as Newsom’s replacement would likely be a Republican candidate who wants to undo mask, vaccine, and regular COVID-19 testing mandates (despite the currently rising cases due to the Delta variant), in addition to enforcing other GOP policies that don’t represent the majority of Californians’ interests.

What’s at Stake?

The options to replace Newsom don’t represent the majority of Californians’ interests or concerns—especially when it comes to COVID-19. Among the candidates are celebrity personality and former Olympian Caitlyn Jenner, former gubernatorial candidate John Cox, and conservative radio host Larry Elder—all three being Republicans. There are no major Democrat candidates running.

Recent polls have shown the election will be close—barely a percentage point apart. 

Larry Elder appears to be the current frontrunner of the polls for who should replace Newsom; however, Elder has a long track record of harmful views and has dangerous plans for what he would do as governor.

During his radio career, Elder has made a lot of jokes and promoted disinformation about domestic violence, sexual assault, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), the glass ceiling, and more. In a since-deleted Tweet from 2017, he suggested that the women participating in the Women’s March were “too unattractive to be sexually assaulted” according to CNN. Elder believes the wage gap is a “false lie” and that Roe v. Wade should be overturned. He has also argued that domestic violence statistics are exaggerated for feminists’ political gain and that working mothers aren’t “dedicated” enough to work. Elder’s ex-fiancee Alexandra Datig has stated Elder “waved a gun at her” during an argument while they were together, which Elder has denied

Regarding the cost of living and the growing unhoused population in California, Elder believes “the ideal minimum wage is $0.00” and wants to suspend the California Environmental Quality Act so developers can build more housing and unhoused Californians can “be forced to get off the street.” 

The biggest issue in this election is how California should continue navigating the pandemic. Elder, among several other Republican candidates running, plans to repeal mask mandates and mandates requiring all teachers, school staff, and state workers to get vaccinated or regularly tested for the virus. He blames teachers’ unions for preventing parents from sending their kids back to school in-person for the past year. 

How Will This Affect the Asian American Community in California?

The issues at stake affect all Californians, not just Asian Americans; but as our community navigates the anti-Asian hate crisis and violence, the outcome of this election is extremely important for our well-being, too. 

The Recall Newsom Campaign has perpetuated anti-Asian rhetoric themselves. Campaign organizers have used language like the “Chinese virus” and the “Communist Chinese Party (CCP) virus” on their website and other marketing materials when addressing issues related to COVID-19. 

One of the reasons they previously listed to recall Newsom on their website was originally worded as “Funding Illegal Alien owned businesses in the amount of $50 Million because CA received federal funding for the Communist Chinese Party (CCP) Virus [Covid-19/Coronavirus].” They’ve since changed this to “Funding Illegal Alien owned businesses in the amount of $50 Million because CA received federal funding for the Covid-19/Corona Virus,” and removed other anti-Asian language on their website.

Several people in their campaign have participated in anti-Asian rhetoric as well, such as their media relations coordinator Stephen Frank, who referred to the virus as the “Wuhan flu” on Twitter last year. 

Many Asian Americans have publicly opposed recalling Newsom, such as the California Democratic Party Asian Pacific Islander Caucus. Deepa Sharma, the Chair of the CDP API Caucus, said: 

“Proponents of the Republican recall effort have engaged in divisive and hateful rhetoric against the AAPI community, are anti-immigrant, and have historically used our community as a wedge. The AAPI community stands firmly against the recall and the GOP’s duplicitous power grab.”

Over 100 API elected officials and community leaders across California are supporting Newsom in the election as well. 

Earlier this year, Newsom signed the API Equity Budget, which allocates $156.5 million to address the rise in anti-Asian violence and hate incidents. $10 million of that will help fund the work of StopAAPIHate, a national reporting center for Asian Americans to report hate incidents they experience. Though this may not prevent future anti-Asian violence, it’s an important tool in tracking it nationwide.

Newsom has expressed more sympathy and support for Asian Americans during this ongoing crisis than Elder, who proudly voted for Trump in 2020, despite Trump’s own anti-Asian rhetoric since the onset of the pandemic.

Understanding the Ballot

The recall ballot consists of two questions:

  1. Shall GAVIN NEWSOM be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor? (YES/NO)

  2. Candidates to succeed GAVIN NEWSOM as Governor if he is recalled (List of candidates, pick one)

A “YES” vote on the first question is to remove Newsom from office. A “NO” vote is to keep Newsom in office for the rest of his term.

Voters don’t need to vote on both questions. If someone votes for only one of the two questions, their vote for that question will still count. 

Democratic Party leaders in California and the Newsom campaign are encouraging voters against the recall to simply vote “NO” on the first question and skip the second question; however, voters can vote “NO” on the first question and still vote for a candidate on the second question. 

Keeping My Family Involved

Leading up to last year’s election, I realized my Filipino American family has a bit of a multigenerational tradition of voting. When my mom was growing up, my grandparents, naturalized citizens after immigrating to the U.S. in 1967, would take her and her brother with them to the polls, familiarizing them with the voting process from a young age. When I was growing up, my parents took my sister and me with them to the polls, too. I probably collected more “I VOTED” stickers from the elections throughout my childhood than the elections I’ve actually been eligible to vote in so far. It wasn’t until adulthood that I realized that wasn’t a common experience for other families, especially in the Asian American community. 

I moved in with my grandma in Southern California during the summer of 2020, when the pandemic was still a little new and many Americans were realizing the extent of the racial inequality and oppression that controlled our ways of life. My grandma watched the events of the Trump Administration throughout the year with rapt interest and concern, especially as anti-Asian violence increased. A young Asian American woman was even harassed by an older woman last summer in the local park my grandma would walk at for exercise every week. 

Initially, my grandma wasn’t sure she was going to vote in the November 2020 General Election. At 81, she felt too old to vote—especially in person. She didn’t realize she’d automatically receive a ballot in the mail until I told her, which helped change her mind. I also shared some of my research on the questions our ballots shared (she’s registered in LA County while I’m registered in Sacramento County) to help her decide. In the end, she voted, and I took her ballot to the nearest drop box for her. 

Things are a lot different this year. After experiencing a stroke in May, my grandma’s unable to use her dominant hand or communicate verbally like she used to. Then my mom and I received her sample ballot in the mail and wondered—can she still vote?

I called the LA County Registrar, and they assured me my grandma could still vote by mail with physical assistance and a witness. I breathed a sigh of relief. I had shown her the sample ballot a couple days in a row prior, re-explaining the Special Election to her each time. The recall campaign was major news for a while before her stroke, so she already knew about it.

So one day I asked her outright: “Do you want to recall the governor?”

She said, “No.”

The next day, I put her actual ballot in front of her. I pointed to the first question and its options.

“This question is to recall Governor Newsom,” I said, as loud and clear as I could. We made direct eye contact. I could see the gears turning in her head, comprehending my words. “Do you want to recall Newsom? ‘Yes’ is to recall Newsom. ‘No’ is to keep Newsom as the governor.”

I pointed at the two options as I explained them, and her finger joined mine at “No.” Out loud, she very clearly said, “No.” 

I told her about other Californians we knew who would also be voting. She asked me, “Are they also ‘No’?”

Her understanding of the election and its consequences was clear. And her vote can still count. Her vote still matters.

So I am once again asking every eligible California voter to not only vote, but please, please encourage your family, friends, and community members who are also eligible to vote. Take the time to explain to them what’s at stake and what “Yes” and “No” each mean, because this may affect them more directly than they realize. Above all else, we are voting on how we will continue to fight and survive COVID-19.

Californians sometimes feel discouraged from voting because systems like the electoral college can lump all our votes together; but this Special Election could not be farther from that situation. The outcome of this election genuinely depends on every single vote. So, please: make your vote count.


Important Dates to Know:

August 16th: Counties mailed out ballots to all registered voters by this date. All registered voters in California automatically receive a vote-by-mail ballot in the mail. You can track your ballot in the mail with BallotTrax here!

August 30th: This was the DEADLINE TO REGISTER TO VOTE TO REQUEST A VOTE-BY-MAIL BALLOT. If registering after this date, you will have to vote in person. Here is how to still register and vote!

September 4 to 14th: Some polling places are open for in-person voting everyday for ten consecutive days leading up to the election. Check your county’s website to receive more detailed information on polling locations and the times they will be open.

September 14th: ELECTION DAY! This is the LAST DAY to vote in person OR by mail. Polling places will be open from 7 AM to 8 PM on Election Day. Ballots must be postmarked by this date and must be received by the county by September 21st to be counted.


To learn more about the 2021 Recall Election:

AP News | EXPLAINER: How California could recall Gov. Gavin Newsom by Michael R. Blood

LA County Registrar | A Guide to Recall (PDF)

Ballotpedia | Gavin Newsom recall, Governor of California (2019-2021)

Business Insider | CA recall election: What to know about the election that could oust sitting Gov. Gavin Newsom by Lauren Frias

California Secretary of State | California Gubernatorial Recall Election - Frequently Asked Questions

NBC News | Covid got California Gov. Newsom into this recall mess. He's banking it'll get him out. by Alex Seitz-Wald


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