On September 14th, the future of California will be decided when voters check a few boxes on their ballots to decide whether or not to recall Gavin Newsom. However, based on surveys of students conducted by The Spyglass, an overwhelming amount of students attending Morro Bay High School have absolutely no knowledge of the recall. Junior Rae Ruane says that all she knows about Newsom is that “he is a Democrat and has had a long political career,” adding that she “is not sure why he is being recalled.” Fellow junior Rhys Demarest revealed similar knowledge, apologizing that “I don’t know anything about it,” and continuing that “I haven’t heard anyone [else] talking about it either.” And freshman Sofia Steen has only heard “bits and pieces” of the news about the recall. All three students wished that they, and other students, were more knowledgeable about the subject.
According to The New York Times, the recall process was implemented in California in 1911. Newly elected governor Hiram Johnson called it “the people’s rule.” Technically, the rule has been invoked by at least a couple hundred people for every governor since 1911… but it’s only been successful once before, when governor Gray Davis was recalled and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger. According to the statement offered on the 2003 official voter information guide, Davis was recalled largely due to his mismanagement of the California electricity crisis of the early 2000s, where many experienced the cost of their energy tripling as rolling blackouts happened throughout the state.
Sherill Van Dam, teacher of American Government at Morro Bay High, explains a recall election as such: “An elected government official… needs to stay in touch with their constituents… and if they are not looking out for the people’s best interest, then sometimes they need to be reminded.” Essentially, a recall is the people’s reminder that if their elected official does not look out for their interests, they will be disposed of.
Six attempts to recall Newsom occured before the current, successful attempt. According to the petitions attached to those recall attempts, grievances against Newsom included him endorsing laws that favor foreign nationals and him failing to enforce immigration laws, along with other gripes including homelessness, the death penalty, and his desire to have people ration water due to California’s drought.
The reason this recall was successful while others weren’t is because of the pandemic. Freshman Sofia Steen said she thought that the biggest reason he was being recalled was that “after setting COVID regulations, he showed up in a restaurant and disregarded the regulations that he had set in place.” She would be correct, according to the Los Angeles Times.
However, what is far more important than the recall’s history is what will happen if it succeeds. The ballot actually has two questions on it. Voters answer “yes” or “no” as to if they want to recall Mr. Newsom. Regardless of whether a voter casts a yes or no vote, they are also asked to vote for whom they would like to replace him in the event the recall succeeds. Interestingly, only 50% of votes have to be “no” for Newsom to be recalled, and if that happens, the replacement candidate is the one who gets elected. This means someone who is supported by 10% of California can win over someone with 49% of the state supporting them. If Newsom is recalled, the frontrunners to replace him are Republican Larry Elder, host of a popular conservative talk show, and Democrat Kevin Paffrath, a YouTuber and real estate broker.
Newsom losing the recall would likely result in a Republican governor, which worries students due to Republicans’ track record with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Junior Rae Ruane postulates that if “a Republican wins, the pandemic has a good chance of spiralling out of control once again because they will lift the mask mandates at school [and] workplaces.” She also “[worries] about how a Republican governor will deal with climate change.”
Mrs. Van Dam, too, is against the recall, because Newsom’s replacement will only “[serve] the remainder of the governor’s current term, which will end in 2022. [This] does not give them too much time in office.” Whereas if Newsom is not recalled, the election will have served as a means to make the governor “more aware of what people need in our beautiful state to thrive.” According to polling data, it is likely that Newsom will not be recalled. FiveThirtyEight, a website of political pundits known for mathematical analysis of polling data, keeps assimilated averages of major races. Their average of the polls for the California recall show that the opinion “keep Newsom” leads the opinion “recall Newsom” by over 11 percent – a considerable margin. For context, Joe Biden only led Donald Trump on the FiveThirtyEight average by 8 percent on election day.
Whatever the result of this recall election, students should care about it. Decisions made by the governor will have a lasting impact on all the people of California, but especially young students. Mrs. Van Dam urges all students to get involved in the next election as well – and all elections after that. “In the next four years, whoever is elected will have an influence on… you.” Don’t let them influence you without you influencing them.