Recall ballots landing in mailboxes next week; here’s what to expect

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BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Kern County voters, like voters across the country, may still be experiencing election fatigue after one of the most contentious and extended presidential campaigns in memory.

Well, no rest for the weary: It’s election season all over again, at least in California, and Governor Gavin Newsom’s political future is on the ballot.

For the second time in less than 20 years, Californians are being asked to decide whether to keep or recall their governor. In 2003, they chose to fire Democrat Gray Davis and replace him with a movie action hero, Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Now it’s Newsom’s turn for a mid-term referendum — ostensibly over his handling of the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout. At least that’s what the governor’s foes are saying. His supporters say this is simply a proxy vote for Donald Trump because the top four possible replacements among the 46 on the ballot are all Republicans who supported the former president.

So, how will this work?

The ballot has two parts. Part one says, verbatim:

1. “Shall GAVIN NEWSOM be recalled (removed) from the office of Governor?”

If more than 50 percent of voters vote no, Newsom remains in office, and question two becomes moot. That question reads,

2. “Candidates to succeed GAVIN NEWSOM as Governor if he is recalled:”

And voters are asked to check the box next to the replacement of their choice.

If more than 50 percent of voters vote yes to the first question, Newsom is removed and the top vote getter among the 46 becomes governor. A simple plurality wins, so with 46 candidates dividing the pie, the winner could have as little as 20 percent of the vote — far fewer, most likely, than Newsom would receive in defeat.

The biggest names are Republicans Larry Elder, Kevin Faulconer, Caitlyn Jenner, John Cox, Kevin Kiley and Doug Ose, as well as — way down in the polling — Democrat Kevin Paffrath, who previously ran a YouTube financial advice channel with 1.7 million subscribers.

Elder, a talk show host, is currently polling best among the challengers.

The Kern County Elections office is gearing up for an eventful four weeks leading up to Sept. 14. 

Mary Bedard, the county’s Auditor-Controller-County Clerk and head of the elections department, said voters should treat the ballot like any other, even though it will look very different.

“The first page of the ballot has the first question and then there’s the big notice on it to turn the ballot over, and then the second page has the list of replacement candidates,” she said. “People can vote for the first and not the second, or however, like you would in any other election.”

Every registered voter will be mailed a ballot and an envelope for returning the ballot, and it can be mailed or returned to election headquarters at the county administrative building on Truxtun Avenue.

The deadline to register to vote or update registration is Aug. 30. 

Every registered voter will receive a ballot in the mail because of a decision made by the state Legislature in February to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by expanding mail-in voting for all elections before January 2022.

Voters who choose to vote in-person should bring their mail ballots and surrender them; otherwise they will have to vote provisionally. Polls will be open from 7 a.m to 8 p.m Sept. 14.

Voters who are fed up and want to register their feelings with a protest vote can always cast a write-in because, yes, there’s a spot for it on the ballot. It won’t count, even if voters vote for a real person, though, because in this particular election, write-in votes won’t be counted. The only protest vote that will count is right at the top of the ballot.

Anyone who would like to volunteer to be a poll worker on Election Day should go to or call (661) 868-3590. 

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