California’s gubernatorial recall election is today

Welcome to the Tuesday, September 14, Brew. Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. California’s gubernatorial recall election is today
  2. Joe Biden (D) has appointed the most federal judges through September 1 of a president’s first year
  3. First 2022 state supreme court vacancy announced

California’s gubernatorial recall election is today

Today, Sept. 14, is the deadline for California voters to cast their ballots in the gubernatorial recall election against Gov. Gavin Newsom (D). Polling places will be open for in-person voting or ballot drop-off from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. PDT. These polling places also allow for same-day voter registration. All registered voters in the state were previously sent an absentee/mail-in ballot in August. Those ballots must be postmarked today to be counted.

The recall election will present voters with two questions. The first asks whether Newsom should be recalled from the office of governor. The second will ask who should succeed Newsom if he is recalled. A majority vote supporting the recall is required on the first question for the governor to be recalled. If that occurs, the candidate with the most votes on the second question would win the elections, no majority required.

California allows election officials to begin counting ballots as they are received, meaning it is likely some results will be made available after polls close tonight. The timing of the final result is harder to determine since officials will be receiving absentee/mail-in ballots until next Tuesday and voters are given about a month to correct signature errors. If the race is close, we might be waiting for that final result.

For context, here’s what the timeline looks like coming up:

  • Sept. 14: Deadline to cast a ballot in the recall election. This is also the deadline for voters to place completed absentee/mail-in ballots in the mail.
  • Sept. 21: Deadline for officials to receive absentee/mail-in ballots.
  • Oct. 6: Deadline for officials to notify voters of signature mismatches.
  • Oct. 12: Deadline for voters to verify signatures in the case of a mismatch.
  • Oct. 22: Election certification date.

Forty-six candidates, including nine Democrats and 24 Republicans, are running in the election. The candidates who have received the most media attention and best poll performances so far are 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).

Averages from the four polls released this month showed 41% of respondents supporting the recall on the first question and 57% opposing. An average of 36% of respondents said they would leave the second question blank—which Newsom has recommended—and 32% said they would support Elder (R).

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

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Joe Biden (D) has appointed the most federal judges through September 1 of a president’s first year

President Joe Biden (D) has appointed and the U.S. Senate has confirmed nine Article III judicial appointments through Sept. 1 of his first year in office. This is the largest number of Article III judicial appointments through this point in all presidencies going back to Ronald Reagan (R). The U.S. Senate confirmed six of Donald Trump’s (R) appointees at this point in his term.

The average number of federal judges appointed by a president through Sept. 1 of their first year in office is four.

Of the nine judges appointed by Biden, five filled vacancies left by judges who were nominated by Republican presidents: four by George W. Bush (R) and one by Ronald Reagan (R). The remaining four judges filled vacancies left by judges nominated by Democratic presidents: three by Bill Clinton (D) and one by Barack Obama (D). The full list is shown below:

Article III federal judges are appointed for life terms by the president of the United States and confirmed by the U.S. Senate per Article III of the U.S. Constitution. Article III judges on all of the following courts: U.S. Supreme Court, U.S. courts of appeals, U.S. district courts, and the Court of International Trade.

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First 2022 state supreme court vacancy announced

Wyoming State Supreme Court Justice Michal K. Davis announced he would retire on Jan. 16, 2022, upon reaching the state court’s mandatory retirement age of 70 years. This vacancy is the first state supreme court vacancy announced for 2022. 

Davis’ replacement will be Gov. Mark Gordon’s (R) first nominee to the five-member supreme court. Under Wyoming’s assisted appointment method, Gordon will pick a replacement from a list of three judges provided to him by a nominating commission, made up of the current chief justice, three members appointed by Gordon, and three members appointed by the state bar.

In our 2021 “Determiners and Dissenters” analysis, we found that the Wyoming Supreme Court was the sixth-most unanimous state supreme court in the country. This analysis examined how frequently justices ruled unanimously on an issue versus a split decision. In the 158 cases before the Wyoming Supreme Court in 2020, justices ruled unanimously on 152 of them (96.2%). Only the state supreme courts in Georgia, Virginia, Delaware, Massachusetts, and Nebraska had higher unanimity rates.

Ballotpedia has tracked 16 state supreme court vacancies so far in 2021. Of those 16 vacancies, two were announced in 2020, though neither as early as Davis’ announcement for 2022. Thirteen of the vacancies in 2021 have been filled with one vacancy outstanding. The remaining two justices are set to retire on Dec. 31, 2021, meaning their replacements likely will not be sworn in until 2022.

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