The price tag has come out: the 2021 California Recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom cost taxpayers $243 million, the Secretary of State reported Thursday.
“On July 1, 2021, the Department of Finance notified the Governor, the Secretary of State, and the Chairpersons of the Joint Legislative Budget Committee of estimated costs of the gubernatorial recall election, based on the estimated costs provided by state and county elections officials. The State Controller’s Office pursuant to Control Section 16.00, of the 2021 Budget Act, remitted direct payment to county elections officials for a total of $243,583,308 allocated in fiscal year 2021-22 for the September 14, 2021, California Gubernatorial Recall election.”
The Globe spoke with elections attorney Mark Meuser, who is running for U.S. Senate, about the increased election costs.
“What is interesting is that Gavin’s response to the recall in the spring of 2020 is that the recall would cost $81 million,” Meuser said. “That means all the changes to California is election code in the last two years has increased the cost of our elections 300%.”
What changed? Mailing a ballot to everyone, along with prepaid stamps on all of the mail-in-ballot envelopes, significantly drove the cost up.
During the recall, the governor and Democrats repeatedly complained about the (unnecessary) cost of the recall election to taxpayers, but they were complaining about the $81 million price tag estimate.
“I may not be the sharpest crayon in the box, but this increase seems to indicate that all of your election changes are increasing the cost to run our elections,” Meuser posted on Facebook. “A 300 percent increase in the cost of running elections is completely unacceptable.”
Meuser also told the Globe that the recall was just one statewide election. Going into the 2022 national and statewide elections, “what used to cost the state $162 million is going to cost $500 million,” Meuser said. “We have two statewide elections next year.”
How did this happen?
Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill into law in September requiring all statewide elections in California to have vote-by-mail ballots mailed out to all registered voters, starting in January 2022, the Globe reported.
Assembly Bill 37, authored by Assemblyman Marc Berman (D-Menlo Park), made AB 860 permanent, a law passed in June of 2020 that required all elections until 2022 have mail-in ballots sent out a month prior to elections.
Initially passed as a safety measure due to the COVID-19 pandemic last year, AB 860 stunned many lawmakers and elections officials by drastically increasing the number of people voting in California, as well as the anticipated cost increases.
Under the new law, all registered voters in California now receive a by-mail ballot at least 29 days before an election to allow for ample decide to decide and turn in.