California Governor Gavin Newsom, once considered a rising superstar in the Democratic Party, is suddenly facing a serious effort to get him removed from power. The petition “Rescue California” has gathered over 1.5 million signatures, enough to qualify to put his recall up for a vote; but the State of California is poised to go into overdrive to throw out signatures that do not match exactly.
As reported by a local ABC News affiliate:
The process of verifying signatures continues in the recall effort for Governor Gavin Newsom.
Organizers of Recall Gavin 2020 said it has collected more than 1.5 million signatures. Now those in charge of the movement must verify all of them. If all the signatures are legitimate, a recall election would happen sometime this summer.
Former Acting Director of National Intelligence Richard Grenell, who is being pressed to run against the California governor, reacted to the Newsom recall effort in an interview with Fox News’ Maria Bartiromo:
“Look, here’s my position: I just saw your interview with Ron DeSantis and I’m hoping that he can run for governor of Florida and governor of California,” Grenell said. “I’m not sure that that we couldn’t have somebody going back and forth. Certainly would do a better job than Gavin Newsom. We have a disaster here in California. And I’m not trying to be cute about your question, but I think what we have to do is concentrate first on the signature that we’re gathering and the verified signatures.”
Grenell also shared information that Newsom recall signatures were going to be thrown out due to strict signature matching:
“The state of California is controlled by a whole bunch of Democrats. One-party rule, they are going to go through every single signature we have and throw out ones. The verification process is going to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen,” Grenell said. “We still have a long way to go to gather signatures to put this on the ballot because they are going to play games. They already are. So I would just say we got to keep focused on getting rid of Gavin Newsom.
California’s suddenly renewed interest in strict signature-matching when it comes to the Newsom recall petition contrasts with its comparatively low 0.6% ballot rejection rate in the 2020 election:
California election officials announced Friday that 99.4% of more than 15 million mail-in ballots were verified and counted in the November election, a rejection rate notably lower than the March primary even though more than twice as many people voted.
Donald Trump, of course, would not be able to win California. Biden received at least 10 million votes to Trump’s 5.5 million, which is a margin of victory of 64% to 33.9%. However, Donald Trump received the most votes of any Republican in California; even more than former California resident, the late Ronald Reagan.
Robert Barnes, a constitutional attorney, notes that California resident Kanye West was removed from the 2020 election ticket due to signature-matching.
“How did Democrats kick Kanye West off the ballot in his home state?” he tweeted. “By demanding a strict signature match. Guess what rate of signatures were rejected by the election officials? Over half. Yet the signatures magically match for the general election?”
The Rescue California petition drive is thus pushing to drive far beyond the 1.4 million minumum for signatures and has set a target of at least 1.9 million, according to organizer Thomas Del Beccaro.
EVERYONE: We have over 1.5 mill raw signatures but they are not all verified. My message is that 1.5m sounds great but is NOT ENOUGH. To ensure qualification we need 1.9 million. https://t.co/AagEb5mh6v https://t.co/nwN1JOxL5I
— Thomas Del Beccaro (@tomdelbeccaro) February 11, 2021
The lack of strict signature-matching in 2020 elections in swing states such as Pennsylvania, Georgia and Michigan, leading to lower ballot rejection rates was a key complaint by former president Donald Trump’s re-election campaign.
Indeed, the ballot rejection rates across most swing states plummeted dramatically in the 2020 election, when compared to prior general elections in mid-term and presidential election years.The Tennessee Star put it as bluntly as possible:
Five states that have historically been competitive in presidential races — North Carolina, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire — do not require signature-matching for mailed voting forms.
Georgia’s ballot rejection rate dropped from 6.42% in 2016 to 0.35% in 2020, according to Ballotpedia. Pennsylvania’s dropped from 1% to 0.03%, and Michigan’s from 0.5% to 0.1%.
There are a number of reasons for the lower ballot rejection rates for mail-in and absentee ballots. Among the foremost of these reasons is a decrease in signature-matching standards. The consistent enforcement of signature-matching standards would hypothetically have led to millions fewer votes for Joe Biden, since the mail-in and absentee ballots broke so dramatically in his direction.
As Law & Crime reported in mid-September: “Pennsylvania Secretary of State Kathy Boockvar (D) issued guidance to counties that local election officials cannot perform on-the-spot signature analysis.” The guidance was clear:
“The Pennsylvania Election Code does not authorize the county board of elections to set aside returned absentee or mail-in ballots based solely on signature analysis by the county board of elections.”
Georgia also effectively conceded that its signature matching was lax — its match rate was an incredible 99.99% — when Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger agreed to a limited signature match audit; but only for Cobb County, and not other key Democrat strongholds in Georgia like Fulton County:
The limited signature check audit—which is unprecedented—will determine whether voter signatures on envelopes match those on file for registered voters in Georgia’s third most populous county.
In Michigan, progressives have a history of pushing the state to drop signature matching in elections. The state’s track record of enforcing signature-match has been very weak. It was made even weaker when the Michigan state legislature eased signature-matching processes.
And in Nevada, a test of the state’s signature-matching system with intentionally mismatched signatures found that eight of nine of them were accepted.
Meanwhile, in California, reports indicate that the signature-matching is going into overdrive in a bid to protect Newsom.
Well, @barnes_law and I could’ve told everyone that was coming.
That’s right, we did, though admittedly, you don’t need to have Nostradamus-level prophecy skills.
So, to be clear: Signature match is not credible enough for Jeff Bezos, Gavin Newsom, etc.
Only for Donald Trump. https://t.co/mbo3qYxVYe
— Rich "The People's Pundit" Baris (@Peoples_Pundit) February 13, 2021
The rationale for recalling Gavin Newsom, according to one of the Rescue California organizers:
California is heading off an economic cliff and Governor Gavin Newsom is driving the car. Voters are angry, and they have a right to be. Newsom has devastated the state’s economy with his dictatorial on-again, off-again shutdown orders. We pay the highest taxes in the nation for a state government that treats business and middle-income families as the enemy, catering exclusively to monied special interests in Sacramento. Voters have a recourse – the power of Recall. We did it in 2003 and we can do it again with your help.
Gavin Newsom is quickly falling from grace, even among rank-and-file Democratic voters. The left-leaning election website FiveThirtyEight captures the reasons for his falling support, while pointing out that this would be the sixth time the state would see a recall election:
Why is this attempt different from the last five? Timing and increased discontent with Newsom’s leadership — both, coincidentally, byproducts of the COVID-19 pandemic. After earning rave reviews early in the pandemic, Newsom is now under heavy fire, even from allies, for his handling of the coronavirus. He went back and forth over the legislature’s proposed vaccination rules and has struggled to convince teachers and administrators to reopen schools. California has also changed its vaccine distribution plan several times since vaccines became available, catching some providers unprepared, and currently ranks 39th among the 50 states in terms of percentage of doses administered. And his policy on lockdowns has pleased no one: Conservatives have accused him of strangling the economy with restrictions on businesses, while public-health experts have criticized his decision last month to lift regional stay-at-home orders as premature. […]
The governor’s acts of hypocrisy only fueled the fires of discontent, FiveThirtyEight continues:
Newsom also sparked national outrage in November by violating his own COVID-19 restrictions when he attended a posh dinner party unmasked, in an enclosed space, with at least 11 other people at The French Laundry, an exclusive restaurant in Napa Valley. Newsom apologized for the hypocrisy, but the damage had been done. Prominent Republicans began to endorse the recall effort, bringing it more media and public attention, and the campaign started to raise significant sums of money as well.
The discontent over Newsom’s failed leadership coincides with the collapse of support for Governor Andrew Cuomo in New York. The spectacular implosion of Cuomo’s governorship following a shocking expose by an aide may lead to an interaction effect among Californians, who may feel less abashed questioning the leadership of their own Democratic governor.
The pandemic failing to fade in the Golden State despite the recent Golden Boy’s many aggressive and capricious actions to stem the coronavirus tide is another reason for growing popular discontent. As the Christian Science Monitor reported:
This week, California passed New York for the most pandemic-related deaths in the nation (though it ranks 18th on a per capita basis). Vaccine distribution has been uneven and confusing, with rules changing for who qualifies. The governor has been sharply criticized for his on-again, off-again lockdown orders, as well as for hypocrisy in going maskless to a party at the exclusive French Laundry restaurant last November.
But President Joe Biden seems to be willing to back the California governor publicly, tying his horse to Newsom’s careening vaccine cart, as it were. Biden has opposed the Newsom recall effort. No word on if he also opposes the state’s sudden push for strict signature-matching.
Editor’s note: This article was updated after publication to clarify how ballot rejection rates would have impacted the general election results.
OPINION: This article contains commentary which reflects the author's opinion.