Governor Gavin Newsom signed Senate Bill 29 into law over the weekend, formally extending the state requirement for counties to send absentee ballots to all voters until January 2022 – including his own potential recall election.
SB 29, authored by Senator Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana), acts as an extension to AB 860, a bill that required all counties to mail out absentee ballots to all registered voters due to COVID-19 concerns in the months before the November 2020 election. AB 860 was only set to last until November 2020 due to no more major federal or state elections until 2022. However, due to COVID-19 still being a major hindrance on in-person voting and a 2021 recall election of Governor Gavin Newsom becoming more and more likely, SB 29 was written to extend county-sent ballots for all registered voters by mail this year.
The voting over SB 29 was largely split along party lines in the Assembly and Senate, with all Republicans either voting against the bill or not voting and most Democrats voting in favor. Many who voted against the bill or abstained from voting fear that ballot harvesting similar to the 2018 ballot harvesting incidents could make a return and sway the votes in favor of keeping Newsom in office, or if he should be voted out, have another candidate similar to Newsom take his place.
“A lot of lawmakers in Sacramento don’t want that,” said “Dana,” a state capitol staffer, to the Globe. “This isn’t about sides or parties or anything like that. After all the anger and accusations and recounts that the 2020 election brought, both for the Presidency and for more state and local-based races, most people just want a straight tally with no voter harvesting drama. A recall is dramatic enough to most people as is.”
Recall supporters see positives in passage of SB 29
However, many recall supporters have said that that the passage of SB 29 may actually increase the odds that Newsom is recalled. With many polls showing Governor Newsom’s popularity now dipping below 50% and the recall signature campaign breaking collection records each passing week, supporters say that it may allow more people to vote him out who otherwise wouldn’t have voted.
“He and his cronies at the state capitol are trying to change the rules in the middle of the game,” explained Senior Advisor and Official Spokesman of the California Patriot Coalition – Recall Gavin Newsom 2020 Committee Randy Economy. “You have a very angry electorate out there right now, and if everybody has access to a ballot during a recall election he may have just sealed his own fate.”
Election experts have taken a different view, pointing out that many Californians are already voting by mail anyway, and that there is still a long way to go until the recall election.
“The vast majority of Californians voted by mail in 2020. Nearly 90%,” said Charles Hobbs, a Southern Californian election analyst, told the Globe in an interview. “And both parties saw major wins. Democrats got a few more seats in the state legislature, while the GOP began taking back seats in the House. So it really can go either way.”
“The real concern, for both sides that is, is what Newsom does between now and the recall date, and who else decides to go in the race.”
“If Newsom can somehow steer the state out of the pandemic quickly and really improve things here, you’ll see his support go up and likely squash the recall. But if he keeps getting into controversies, then all of that is thrown up in the air. He isn’t where Gray Davis was in 2003 in terms of support, as Davis was very much disliked 18 years ago at this time. But Newsom is inching closer with each bad call.”
“And the candidates going in can be a huge change. Arnold Schwarzenegger made a huge splash in 2003, getting critical bipartisan support and sinking any remaining chance Gray Davis had at beating the recall. Schwarzenegger also probably cost either [Congressman Tom] McClintock or [Then Lt. Governor Cruz] Bustamante the seat. We don’t know yet in 2021. Major people, politicians and actors alike, have had to deny that they’re running this year already. So any momentum from a yet-unknown person can wreck Newsom’s chances too.”
“One thing is for certain though. We’re going to see a record number of people vote for Governor this year. That’s exciting. But for Newsom, with declining popularity and a resurging GOP in California, it’s becoming more and more terrifying.”
SB 29 was made law as soon as it was signed by Governor Newsom this weekend, ensuring that ballots will be sent to every registered voter in California this year.