Newsom recall election has been certified after Democrats changed election laws to benefit governor

AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Things are moving quickly in the recall election of California’s Gov. Newsom and that’s not by accident. Today California’s elections chief certified the recall which means the vote could take place in mid-September:

More than 1.7 million voters signed petitions to qualify the Newsom recall election, according to Secretary of State Shirley Weber, a Democrat and Newsom appointee who issued the official certification Thursday afternoon. Democratic Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis is expected to decide the recall date later Thursday, and Sept. 14 is the likeliest spot on the calendar given the parameters Kounalakis must work with.

Weber moved swiftly after Newsom’s Department of Finance released its cost analysis earlier in the day, which pegged the price tag at $276 million.

The reason this is all happening so quickly is that earlier this week Democrats changed a law to eliminate a financial review of the proposed recall election which would have extended the timeline by months. Why? Because Democrats believe it’s better for Newsom to get this recall election over with as soon as possible.

While political observers once believed an early November election would best benefit Newsom by conforming to the typical rhythms of the election cycle, helping to boost turnout in an off-year election, that logic has shifted as California has reopened its economy and Newsom’s polling numbers have stabilized.

Democrats increasingly believe that Newsom would benefit from an earlier vote that allows him to capitalize on that momentum while depriving Republican foes of time to organize and fundraise.

Here’s the backstory. Back in 2017 Democrats passed a law that mandated that the Secretary of State’s office would have 30 days to review the cost estimate for the recall election before approving it. The Sacramento Bee noted at the time that the law was passed with one specific purpose, to help a Democratic State Senator survive a GOP-led recall effort:

The proposed changes, which became public Monday morning, would add months to the existing timeline of certifying a recall election for the ballot. The measure would virtually assure that any recall election would be held at the regularly scheduled June 5, 2018 legislative primary election.

Regular election turnout historically is much higher than turnout for special elections, which helps Democrats.

That law has been in place for four years until this Monday when Democrats passed a new bill to remove the delay they had added to the process in a blatant effort to help Newsom survive. Newsom signed the bill into law the same day.

Republican Assemblyman Kevin Kiley called the move unprecedented. “We have the unprecedented circumstance where Gov. Gavin Newsom, with the stroke of a pen, will be changing California law in order to try to beat back his own recall,” he said. But that kind of manipulation is just how things operate in California. Here’s a local news report on the shift in the law: