California recall to cost taxpayers $215 million

A recall election targeting California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) will cost counties $215 million to conduct, according to a new estimate from the state Department of Finance.

The figures, delivered to top legislators in a letter from Deputy Finance Director Erika Li on Thursday, are lower than the initial estimate of up to $400 million to pay for election administration costs. But they are high enough that county governments, already stretched thin by the coronavirus pandemic, will ask the legislature to pay the bill.

The estimate comes from reports from all of California’s 58 counties, which are in charge of administering any elections within their boundaries. The costs range from just $19,200 in tiny Sierra County, home of 3,240 residents, to nearly $50 million for Los Angeles County, the largest county in the nation.

Newsom and his allies have made the cost of the recall election a central argument against its use. They have said the money could be better spent elsewhere, though California enjoys a record surplus, especially if it is conducted just a year before Newsom is scheduled to face voters again at the end of his term.

Final costs could be higher than the $215 million estimate, Li wrote to legislators, because the overall figure does not include expenses incurred by the secretary of state’s office, which must oversee and certify the vote.

Every voter in California is likely to receive a ballot in the mail for the recall election, after the legislature earlier this year passed a measure extending mail-in voting because of the coronavirus pandemic through the end of 2021.

Those voters will have two questions to decide when they get their ballots: Whether Newsom should be recalled and removed from office, and who should replace him in the event he loses the recall question.

More than 50 candidates have already filed papers with the state to indicate they will run in the recall election to be held later this year. Among them are three prominent Republicans — former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faulconer; businessman John Cox, who lost to Newsom in 2018; and Olympian and reality television star Caitlyn Jenner. No Democrats have said they will enter the race, and Newsom’s team is trying to keep it that way.

Recent polls have showed most voters oppose ousting Newsom, a first-term governor who won office with almost 62 percent of the vote in 2018. A poll conducted last month by the Public Policy Institute of California found 57 percent of voters opposed the recall; a survey conducted by Berkeley’s Institute for Governmental Studies found the recall trailing by a 50 percent to 42 percent margin among likely voters.

Tags Caitlyn Jenner California Gavin Newsom Kevin Faulconer Recall
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