Tuolumne County ranked among the highest counties in California per capita in the acquisition of signatures to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom, officials said Tuesday as the effort moves into its later stages.
"For Tuolumne County, on behalf of the people who helped in the recall, we are just absolutely thrilled," said Tuolumne County recall coordinator Jackie Mills. "I just think it's important that people educate themselves, vote however they choose to vote."
Mills said Tuolumne County came in third among 62 California regions (Los Angeles County was subdivided into smaller areas) for the amount of signatures acquired compared to registered voters.
"I'm super thrilled with that," Mills said.
Debi Bautista, county clerk and auditor-Controller for Tuolumne County, estimated the special recall election may cost approximately $175,000. She reached the value, she said, based on the election being mail-in only with an approximate cost of $5 per ballot for each of the approxaimtely 35,700 registered voters in the county.
The cost of the ballot would be increased by its physical size and the total number of candidates who wished to declare on the ballot.
"I think all the voters would be voting, whether pro-Newsom or anti-Newsom," Bautista said.
Some of the details, including the date of the election, are still up in the air.
The cost may be reimbursed to the county, Bautista said, but it was unclear if that would be before or after the election, or even happen at all.
"If the state does not pay us, that would come from the General Fund,” she said, referring to the county’s main operating account. “Instead of paying for five or six vehicles, we would have to pay for the election.”
Bautista estimated the election will occur between the end of November and the end of December.
Randy Economy, a senior advisor to the recall movement, said he believes the election will happen before Thanksgiving.
"Every signature counts, every petition matters and every volunteer is priceless to us," he said. "The rural counties in Northern California have done exceptionally well. I think that's a credit to organizing, organizing, organizing."
Economy said the recall effort is advocating for a traditional recall election that involves voting at the polls (or voting centers) due to the opening up of the state following the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is unclear how the pandemic will affect the eventual tally. While much of the recall effort is predicated on the Democratic governor’s perceived failure to decisively stem the spread of the virus over the past year and the economic downturn caused by mandated closures, the reopening of the economy and high vaccination numbers may act in Newsom’s favor.
The recall effort has until June 8 to confirm the recall petition, Bautista said.
"I would be really surprised if it did not go forward," she said.
According to a signature verification certificate provided by Bautista, there were 8,144 signatures received by the county between June 10 and March 17, with 6,393 valid and 1,751 invalid.
The recall effort’s website said Tuolumne County only needed to reach a threshold of 2,856 (12%) to meet its statewide signature obligation per capita.
Calaveras County only needed to reach 2,593 signatures for its 12% threshold, but had verified 4,930 from a total of 7,206 submitted as of Tuesday.
Economy said 1,626,042 signatures statewide were verified as of Tuesday out of more than 2 million submitted, with about 1.5 million needed to reach the ballot.
"We're moving into what we call phase two," Mills said. "We showed how we could peacefully and cooperatively put up booths so people could choose what they wanted to do in our county. A lot of people in our county stepped up, and we got people from all sides interested in this."
Newsom won the governorship with 62% of the vote, but the recall movement intensified this summer fueled by COVID-19 lockdown frustrations.
Eighteen years ago, Democratic Gov. Gray Davis was recalled and lost the election to Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.
The recall effort is sponsored through the California Patriot Coalition, but its funding sources largely have been from Republican activist groups and political entities, according to CalMatters.
John Cox, 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate, notably gave $50,000 to the effort and plans to run on the ballots.
Among the other challenges are Caitlyn Jenner, a television personality, transgender activist and former Olympic athlete.
The recall effort began in June, and a deadline was extended by a judge from Nov. 17 to March 17 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 1.5 million figure, or 1,495,709 signatures, is 12% of the voters in the last election and the requirement to trigger the recall.
April 29 is the deadline for counties to verify signatures, according to CalMatters.
The county registrar verifies the signatures much like they would do on a mail-in ballot during an election year. Those signatures are then sent to the secretary of state, who will certify the results and schedule the recall election.
The ballot will ask two questions: if voters want to recall Newsom and, if a majority of voters vote yes, the next question would be a vote for whom to replace him.
There is no limit on the number of candidates who can be on the ballot. The person with the most votes wins, even if they do not get a majority.
Also upcoming is a Measure V ballot measure (a special local tax on parcels for fire funding) which will be on the ballot on June 8 for approximately 33,500 voters. It excludes voters in the Strawberry Fire District, Twain Harte Fire District and Mi Wuk Fire District (Twain Harte and Mi-Wuk already have a parcel assessment).
Bautista said ballots are expected to be mailed by the end of next week and can be cast in person at the Elections Office at 2 S. Green St. in Sonora.
Contact Giuseppe Ricapito at email@example.com or (209) 588-4526.