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Why California Recall Election Procedure Triggers GOP Suspicion

© AP Photo / Marcio Jose SanchezA supporter of the California recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a sign outside of a debate by Republican gubernatorial candidates at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in Yorba Linda, Calif. Newsom faces a Sept. 14 recall election that could remove him from office.
A supporter of the California recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom holds a sign outside of a debate by Republican gubernatorial candidates at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library Wednesday, Aug. 4, 2021, in Yorba Linda, Calif. Newsom faces a Sept. 14 recall election that could remove him from office. - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.09.2021
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The outcome of the recall election may not become clear before 22 October, after each of the state's 58 counties submits their final results to the Secretary of State. The state's peculiar recall election process, as well as the enhanced use of mail-in voting, has prompted some GOP members to doubt the fairness of the election.
Californians have started to cast ballots in the recall elections, well before the 14 September deadline. Every registered voter in the state received a ballot by mail. Altogether, officials issued 22.2 million mail ballots. As of 12 September, over 8 million ballots, or roughly 37% of all ballots sent to Californians, have been returned by mail or voted in person, according to ABC 7.
After polling places close at 8 p.m. local time, voters will be able to see preliminary results for each of 58 counties at the Secretary of State (SOS) website. Election results will be regularly updated as vote-by-mail ballots, provisional and other ballots are tallied, according to the website.
The SOS further notifies California voters that each county processes ballots differently and the distances poll workers must travel in some cases, from polling places to county offices, also varies. In addition, the state allows every ballot to count as long as it is postmarked by Election Day and received within seven days.
© AFP 2021 / JUSTIN SULLIVANCalifornia Gov. Gavin Newsom (C) talks with California State Sen. Scott Wiener (R) and a volunteer (L) who is phone banking against the recall at Manny's on August 13, 2021 in San Francisco, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom kicked off his "Say No" to recall campaign as he prepares to face a recall election on September 14
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (C) talks with California State Sen. Scott Wiener (R) and a volunteer (L) who is phone banking against the recall at Manny's on August 13, 2021 in San Francisco, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom kicked off his Say No to recall campaign as he prepares to face a recall election on September 14 - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.09.2021
California Gov. Gavin Newsom (C) talks with California State Sen. Scott Wiener (R) and a volunteer (L) who is phone banking against the recall at Manny's on August 13, 2021 in San Francisco, California. California Gov. Gavin Newsom kicked off his "Say No" to recall campaign as he prepares to face a recall election on September 14
Although California state law requires county officials to send their first batch of results to the SOS no later than two hours after they begin tallying votes, it may take up to 30 days to come up with a final result. During this period, county officials are required to verify voter records and determine whether the ballots were cast by eligible voters, according to the SOS.
Typically, the first batch of ballots consists of votes submitted before Election Day, such as ballots from voters overseas and those who used mail-in voting, according to Newsweek. The results from all the 58 counties won't be compiled and certified by the SOS until 22 October.
Some media outlets, including NPR and CapRadio, announced that they would rely on the Associated Press to call the winner in the recall race before the official numbers are announced.
If 50% or more voters choose to keep Newsom, the recall will have failed. If a majority of voters opt to remove the governor, the replacement candidate who gets the most votes will be elected for the remainder of the term of office, through 2 January 2023.
Some Republicans have raised an alarm over the possibility of election fraud in the state. Conservative talk show host Larry Elder’s campaign website has asked for reports of incidents of "any irregularities, interference, or intimidation."
Elder's concerns are primarily driven by a GOP distrust of mail-in and absentee voting, as well as the practice of receiving ballots after the official Election Day, a long-standing electoral process they claim invites election fraud. Republicans in a number of US states are currently reviewing 2020 election results in a similar effort denounced by the Biden administration as the "Big Lie." A recent Yahoo News poll suggested that as many as 66% of Republican voters continue to believe baseless claims that last year's election was "stolen" from the former US president, Donald Trump.
"Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn't rigged?" Trump commented on 13 September. "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!"
Conservative media outlet Townhall published an op-ed on 14 September, self-titled "Very Concerning Evidence of Vote Fraud in California Recall Election." In particular Townhall refers to a case in Torrance in which police claimed to have found "300 recall ballots and multiple California drivers' licenses in a felon’s car" and a case in the San Fernando Valley in which unnamed election officials told Republican voters that they had already voted. Although California authorities pledged to investigate these claims, the conservative media outlet suggested that the allegations of possible irregularities could be the tip of an iceberg.
Left-leaning mainstream media in the state bash the GOP for "setting the stage to blame a loss on voter fraud." While polls increasingly note that Newsom has high odds of staying at the helm, media observers admit that California has long been a Democratic stronghold and the GOP has very little chance of winning. A Republican has not won a statewide race since 2006. In addition, the Republican Party claims just 24% of registered voters in California, compared with 46.5% for Democrats, according to AP.
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