Live coverage: California voters to decide Newsom's fate

Newsom survives recall

11:48 p.m.

Newsom’s political career will survive another day.

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NBC News and CNN project that the California governor has survived the recall effort, bringing the months-long campaign to oust him to a swift end. It’s still early, but the most recent election results show more than 67 percent of voters rejecting the recall effort and just shy of 33 percent supporting it.

Heading into Tuesday, Newsom appeared to be in a strong position to survive the recall vote. Recent polling consistently found that most Californians wanted to keep him in the governor’s mansion. The FiveThirtyEight average shows that 57.5 percent oppose recalling the governor, while 40.8 percent want to boot him from office.

Newsom’s victory effectively nullifies the second question posed to voters: who should replace Newsom? Elder was the frontrunner in that race, but his aspirations and those of his rivals appear to have hit a dead end.

Votes are still being counted and Newsom’s margin of victory could still shrink. Still, he’s poised to serve as governor of the nation’s most populous state for at least another year.

Early results show Newsom in a strong position

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11:25 p.m.

Less than half-an-hour after polls closed, things are looking good for Newsom.

With California’s largest counties reporting their first batches of results, nearly 70 percent are rejecting the recall effort. There are still votes coming in, but things are looking increasingly desperate for those hoping to oust Newsom on Tuesday.

The first results came in from Napa County, the home of the French Laundry, the high-end restaurant that played a key role in fueling the recall campaign against Newsom. Nearly 72 percent of voters there rejected the recall, according to early results.

In other parts of the state, early election results showed Newsom outperforming his margins from 2018 when he was first elected governor.

Of course, the election hasn’t been called yet. But Newsom appears to be in a good position for now.

Polls close in California

11 p.m.

Polls are closed in California and counting is set to begin in the recall election that will determine Newsom’s political future. 

The first batch of results expected to be released – from mail-in ballots received ahead of Election Day – are likely to favor Newsom and the anti-recall campaign, given the heavy Democratic tilt of those voters. 

Newsom’s opponents, meanwhile, are banking on strong Election Day turnout to oust the governor, and those results could winnow down the margin once they’re tallied up. 

The big question that remains is how many early ballots were cast compared to those cast on Election Day. If early ballots far outnumber Election Day votes, the final outcome could become clear quickly. 

Still, the possibility of a tight race – and prolonged counting process – remains.

Voting enters final moments with Newsom's political fate on the line

10:20 p.m.

Voting in the California recall election is in its final moments.

Polls are set to close at 8 p.m. PT – or 11 p.m. EDT – and the first results should be coming out just after that. For voters still waiting in line then, they’ll still have a chance to cast their ballots.

But again, most of the voting in this election was done via mail and many of those ballots have already been received by election workers, so expect a big batch of results to be released quickly.

Still, it could take some time before the election is called one way or another. Whether it takes hours or weeks, however, will come down to how close the vote margins are.

Newsom's polling lead widened in weeks before recall

10 p.m.

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While recent polling shows Newsom as the favorite to win the recall vote, the picture wasn’t always so rosy for the California governor.

Just a few weeks ago, a Los Angeles Times/University of California, Berkeley poll found voters near-evenly split on the recall question. As recently as Aug. 24, the FiveThirtyEight polling average showed the recall failing by a scant 1.2 percentage points. 

Since then, however, the outlook has changed for Newsom. The FiveThirtyEight average now shows the recall failing by nearly 16 percentage points. And while the polling could still be off, an upset for Newsom would amount to a historically large polling error. 

At the same time, Elder has expanded his lead in the race to replace Newsom over the past few weeks, driven by his high name ID among many Californians, as well as by his appeal to a swath of conservative voters desperate to do away with Newsom. 

Again, Elder is just one of 46 candidates running to replace Newsom should he be recalled. Still, his bombastic style and libertarian politics appear to have resonated with California conservatives in a way that no other Republican on the ballot has been able to replicate.

Bernie SandersBernie Sanders Texas House Republican tests positive for coronavirus in latest breakthrough case In defense of share buybacks Progressives seething over Biden's migrant policies MORE weighs in

9:10 p.m.

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Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) defended Newsom’s tenure in the governor’s mansion on Tuesday night, just hours before polls close in the state’s recall election.

“I think in California the governor has done his best, done well and I think the people will respond accordingly,” Sanders told CNN’s Anderson Cooper.

“The truth is that California does not need a right-wing governor, Republican governor,” he added. “Historically [California has] been in recent years one of the most progressive states in the United States and I think the people want it to stay that way.”

Sanders, who cut an ad on Newsom’s behalf last month, said that the recall effort was being driven by deep-seated frustration in California and across the country caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, climate change and lingering economic troubles.

Newsom and Elder look to turn out voters last minute

8:54 p.m.

Newsom and Elder are urging last-minute holdouts to go vote in the final hours before polls close. 

Earlier in the day, Newsom also got some online help from Biden and Harris, both of whom have joined the governor on the campaign trail in recent days. 

The involvement of Biden, Harris and a handful of other national Democrats, including Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth WarrenIn defense of share buybacks Democrats urge Biden to go all in with agenda in limbo In Washington, the road almost never taken MORE (D-Mass.) and Amy KlobucharAmy KlobucharHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Officials want action on cyberattacks Senate panel advances antitrust bill that eyes Google, Facebook This week: Democrats face mounting headaches MORE (D-Minn.), underscores the extent to which the recall election has been nationalized – a strategy that appears to have worked well for Newsom in recent weeks.

Democrats see early advantage in returned ballots

8:15 p.m.

Tuesday may be Election Day in California, but voters in the Golden State have already been casting their ballots for weeks. 

Because of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, ballots were mailed to all of California’s active voters ahead of the recall. Many of those ballots have trickled into election offices in recent weeks, and some are arriving as late as today. Many Californians have also chosen to vote in person. 

The mail-in ballots received ahead of Election Day skew heavily Democratic, and they’ll be among the first to appear in the vote count. That means early results could show an overwhelming rejection of the recall. 

As Ryan Matsumoto, a contributing analyst for Inside Elections, notes, Democrats’ early vote advantage in the recall appears even bigger than their advantage in the 2020 presidential election. 

The next batch of ballots to be counted will be those cast on Election Day. Those votes are expected to be more Republican, and could show the recall narrowing a bit. 

California voters have until Tuesday, however, to have their mail-in ballots postmarked. Those ballots will be received later on and eventually counted, though that could take some time.

Voters head to polls

7:42 p.m. ET

Californians are readying a verdict on Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) with a vote that will determine whether he’ll get to keep his job.

The recall election is being conducted mostly by mail, but that didn’t stop many Californians from voting in person on Tuesday. Polls are set to close at 8 p.m. PT, or 11 p.m. ET.

There are two questions on the ballot: whether Newsom should be recalled and, if so, who should replace him. There are 46 candidates vying to become the next governor should Newsom lose his job, but conservative radio host Larry Elder has emerged as the clear front-runner in that race.

Still, Newsom appears more likely to keep his job than not. Recent polling shows most Californians rejecting the recall effort, and early turnout numbers lean heavily Democratic.

That’s not to say Newsom’s fate is secure. Polling in the last California recall election in 2003 that saw the ouster of former Gov. Gray Davis (D) was off by several points. Heading into Tuesday, however, Newsom’s lead appeared large enough to weather a major polling error.

The recall also has major national political undertones. Newsom and his allies have sought to cast the election as an attempted power grab by Republicans, warning that a successful recall would amount to a victory for former President TrumpDonald TrumpCheney says a lot of GOP lawmakers have privately encouraged her fight against Trump Republicans criticizing Afghan refugees face risks DeVos says 'principles have been overtaken by personalities' in GOP MORE.

Newsom has also brought in a handful of high-profile national Democrats to campaign for him in recent weeks, including most recently President BidenJoe BidenPelosi sets Thursday vote on bipartisan infrastructure bill Pressure grows to cut diplomatic red tape for Afghans left behind President Biden is making the world a more dangerous place MORE, who stumped for Newsom on Monday.

Meanwhile, Trump and Elder have raised false allegations of fraud and malfeasance in the recall election, echoing the former president’s baseless claims about the 2020 election.