The New York Times defends Gavin Newsom against recall, slams 'broken' process: 'Vote no'

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The New York Times’ editorial board made clear Thursday upon which side the liberal paper stands when it comes to next week’s recall election in California.

Writing in an editorial, the board argued that California voters should vote “no” on recalling first-term Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom, not because of his performance, but because the state’s current system for recalling a governor “is so broken,” and the risk that a “fringe,” “ragtag” Republican receiving only a plurality of votes might take his place. 

Vice President Kamala Harris stands on stage with California Gov. Gavin Newsom at the conclusion of a campaign event at the IBEW-NECA Joint Apprenticeship Training Center in San Leandro, Calif., Wednesday, Sept. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“California’s process for recalling its governor is so broken, some Democratic strategists are encouraging a vote for a Republican former San Diego mayor because ‘he’s not insane,'” the board wrote. “Millions of mail-in ballots were already cast before the state even released a list of qualified write-in candidates to potentially replace the sitting governor … leaving voters to choose from a list of 46 mostly gadflies and wannabes.”

The board complained about the possibility that Newsom could lose the recall effort by receiving 49% of the vote, but that one of the candidates vying to replace him could win with half of, or less than, that same level of support.

“Election rules don’t allow for Mr. Newsom’s name to appear on the ballot … or for him to serve if he wins as a write-in candidate. That structure may amount to unconstitutional disenfranchisement,” the board wrote. 

“Scrapping the century-old recall system altogether would deny California voters an important check on their top elected official. Whatever the result of the Newsom recall effort, however, the process is well past due for an overhaul,” it added.

The board argued that because California’s recall elections can happen in off-years, such as the current one, it them open to manipulation by the minority party, or the Republicans in this case. 

It also predicted that a smaller electorate would end up determining who the state’s leader would be, and that it would likely be a more White, older and more conservative. 

The board seemingly sought to downplay the ability of Newsom’s challengers to take on the role as governor, describing them as “a ragtag bunch,” and pointing out that many of them had no prior political experience.

Conservative radio talk show host Larry Elder speaks to supporters during a campaign stop outside the Hall of Justice downtown Los Angeles, Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021. Elder is running to replace Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in the Sept. 14 recall election. The recall was largely driven by frustration with Newsom’s sweeping coronavirus orders that closed schools, businesses and in turn, cost millions of jobs. In a television ad this week, Newsom’s campaign blasted his Republican rivals as anti-vaxers, However Elder, and other top GOP candidates Kevin Faulconer, Kevin Kiley and John Cox all say they have been vaccinated against the virus and none has flatly said the vaccines are dangerous. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes)
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“Polls show [Larry Elder] is the top candidate with the support of just 20 percent of likely voters. In California’s recall scheme, he could assume the governor’s office with well under two million votes, compared with the 7.7 million votes Mr. Newsom won in the regular 2018 election,” the board wrote before listing ways it thought the system should be reformed, including raising the threshold of signatures required to trigger a runoff.

“Properly conducted, recalls can serve an important function in representative democracies … But it should be in the state’s interest to have the broadest and most diverse electorate possible. That’s not now the case in California,” it added.

“A system that allows a legitimately elected governor to be replaced with a fringe candidate winning only a small fraction of the vote is in desperate need of reform. California voters should vote no on the recall question, and the Legislature should, at last, begin the work of revising the state’s recall elections,” the board wrote.

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