The final stretch of California’s gubernatorial recall

Welcome to the Tuesday, August 31, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. The final stretch of California’s gubernatorial recall
  2. Checking in on voting bills in Georgia and Texas
  3. Property tax rate initiative qualifies for Colorado ballot

The final stretch of California’s gubernatorial recall

We are two weeks away from the Sept. 14 recall election regarding California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Early voting has already begun. County election officials began mailing absentee/mail-in ballots to all registered voters on Aug. 16. Let’s take a look at the race with two weeks to go.

Recall supporters said Newsom mishandled the state’s response to the coronavirus pandemic, did not do enough to address the homelessness rate, and supported sanctuary city policies and water rationing. In response, Newsom called the effort a “Republican recall — backed by the RNC, anti-mask and anti-vax extremists, and pro-Trump forces who want to overturn the last election and have opposed much of what we have done to fight the pandemic.”

Voters are faced with two questions. The first asks whether Newsom should be recalled. The second asks who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. If that majority is reached, then the candidate with the most votes on the second question wins the election, no majority required. Voters may vote on both questions regardless of whether they vote in favor or against the recall.

Forty-six candidates—including nine Democrats and 24 Republicans—appear on the ballot for the second question, including YouTuber Kevin Paffrath (D), 2018 gubernatorial candidate John Cox (R), radio host Larry Elder (R), former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer (R), California State Board of Equalization member Ted Gaines (R), former Olympian and television personality Caitlyn Jenner (R), and Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R).

Real Clear Politics reports that, based on averages from four recent polls, 48% of respondents supported the recall and 48% said they would vote against it. For the second question, on average, 22% of respondents supported Elder (R) followed by 11% for Paffrath (D). A plurality of respondents gave some other response, which might include another candidate, leaving the second question blank, or unsure. Two polls included in the average excluded respondents from polling on the second question if they chose to leave that question blank.

Campaign finance reports as of July 31 show committees opposing Newsom’s recall have accounted for most of the money raised and spent. These committees have raised $50.0 million and spent $21.5 million spent. For the second question, Republican candidates have raised $16.0 million and spent $11.5 million, collectively, while Democrats have raised and spent roughly $400,000.

While the election will be held on Sept. 14, the results will not be certified until Oct. 22. A semifinal official canvass of the votes will begin at 8:00 p.m. on election day and election officials may begin counting absentee/mail-in ballots on Sept. 7. This means initial returns may be released soon after polls close. The official canvass will begin on Sept. 16 and must be completed no later than Oct. 14.

Since 1911, there have been 55 attempts to recall a California governor. The only successful campaign was in 2003 when voters recalled Gov. Gray Davis (D). In that election, 135 candidates ran and the winner, Arnold Schwarzenegger (R), received 48.6% of the vote on the second question.

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Checking in on voting bills in Georgia and Texas

Several states have passed or proposed election policy packages this year affecting various aspects of voting. Here’s an update from two of those states: Georgia and Texas.


U.S. District Court Judge Jean-Paul Boulee temporarily suspended a recently enacted state law prohibiting photographs of cast ballots. The injunction prevents the state from enforcing the provision regarding ballot photographs pending resolution of the case

On Aug. 20, Boulee, a Donald Trump (R) appointee, wrote: “[The photography rule’s] broad sweep prohibits any photography or recording of any voted ballot in public and nonpublic forums alike,” adding that the plaintiffs were “substantially likely to succeed on the merits of their First Amendment challenge” to the rule.

The photography rule in question was part of Senate Bill 202 (S.B. 202), an election policy bill Gov. Brian Kemp (R) signed into law on March 25. Boulee’s injunction suspended the provision of that law regarding ballot photographs but left the remainder intact. Boulee denied plaintiffs’ requests to block other parts of the law.


The Texas House of Representatives passed Senate Bill 1 (S.B. 1)—a legislative package related to early voting, elections officers, voter registration, and voting systems—after Democratic members returned to the capitol, ending a 38-day walkout. 

On July 12, 51 of the chamber’s 67 Democrats left the state for Washington, D.C. in order to break quorum and prevent action on the bill. The walkout ended on Aug. 19 after three members returned to the chamber, providing a quorum.

On Aug. 27, the House voted 80-41 in favor of the bill with 80 Republicans voting yes and 40 Democrats voting no. Republican Rep. Lyle Larson joined Democrats voting against the bill, which now goes to the Republican-controlled state Senate for approval.

Property tax rate initiative qualifies for Colorado ballot

Colorado voters will decide whether the state should lower its property tax rates in the Nov. 2, 2021, general election. On Aug. 26, Secretary of State Jena Griswold (D) announced that proponents of Initiative 27 submitted a projected 138,567 valid signatures. To qualify, 124,632 needed to be valid.

If passed, the initiative would reduce the state’s residential property tax assessment rate from 7.15% to 6.5% and its non-residential rate from 29.0% to 26.4%. It would also allow the state to retain and spend $25 million in revenue above its spending cap for five years to offset lost revenue for local governments. Currently, the state’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights (TABOR) limits the amount of money the state can take in and spend. Any money collected above this limit is refunded to taxpayers.

Michael Fields of Colorado Rising Action sponsored the measure. Fields said it would offset the effect rising home values have had on tax levels. “Our houses are worth more,” Fields said, “but that doesn’t mean you have more money in your pocket to be able to pay for the property taxes.”

Elliot Goldbaum of the Colorado Fiscal Institute opposes the measure. Goldbaum said most Coloradoans do not own property and would not receive any tax benefits from the initiative: “there are a lot of millionaires and billionaires who own very expensive property who are going to get a very large tax cut.”

In addition to Initiative 27, voters will decide on Initiative 25, a measure to increase the marijuana sales tax to fund a statewide out-of-school education program. Proponents of a third measure transferring control of the state’s custodial funds from the treasurer to the legislature submitted signatures. The secretary of state must finish verifying signatures for that initiative by Sept. 1.

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