UPDATE: Tuesday night the Associated Press called the recall for Gov. Gavin Newsom, projecting more than 50% of voters would vote "No" on the recall.
The eyes of the nation will be on California this week as voters decide whether to retain or remove Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom in Tuesday’s recall election.
But once the final ballots are mailed, dropped off or cast in-person, many will ask: ‘How soon will the results come in?’ And ‘when will we know the outcome?’
Election experts say it’s impossible to predict exactly when the race will be decided. If it’s a landslide, we might know within hours of polls closing. But a close contest could mean weeks of hand-wringing as late arriving mail ballots are counted before a winner is declared.
“If it’s very close,” said Kim Alexander, president of the California Voter Foundation, “then you’re going to have to wait possibly all the way until the end of the certification period which is 30 days after election day.”
As a refresher, the election won't be officially certified by the Secretary of State until Oct. 22. Before then, CapRadio and NPR will rely on the Associated Press to call a winner in the recall. Here's how that process works.
All registered voters in California were issued vote-by-mail ballots, though they also have the option of casting their ballot in-person. Altogether, officials issued 22.2 million mail ballots.
When Will The First Results Come In?
Partial results are expected to arrive in three waves, with the first crashing down shortly after the polls close at 8 p.m. on election night. You can track the recall election results here after 8 p.m.
It will consist of the millions of vote-by-mail ballots sent in and tabulated before election day. As of early Monday, 7.7 million of the more than 22 million ballots issued in the recall had been returned, said Paul Mitchell, whose polling firm Political Data Intelligence tracks returned ballots.
Mitchell, a Democrat, said the early results will likely favor Newsom.
“We definitely are seeing that in this early vote, this 2 to 1 Democratic over Republican advantage,” he explained, noting that ballots returned by registered Democrats totaled 4 million while those from registered Republicans amounted to 1.9 million as of Monday.
The second wave should arrive later on election night and into Wednesday morning when county election offices publish in-person votes cast on election day.
Mitchell said that batch could be more favorable for recall supporters.
“If we see a big swing in that election day vote, I think you might have some people pausing and not calling the race right away,” he added.
A third and final wave of results could arrive several days after the election and could be decisive in a close race. Those will come in from voters who mail their ballots right before or on election day, said Alexander of the California Voter Foundation.
State law requires counties to count all ballots that arrive up to seven days after the polls close as long as they are postmarked no later than Sept. 14.
What Factors Could Influence The Outcome?
Mitchell added that turnout among Latinos and young voters could have a large impact on the outcome of the recall. He said early vote totals showed late last week that 40% of registered voters who are White had returned their ballots compared with 22% of registered voters who are Latino.
Also, more than half of the state’s registered voters 65 and older had returned their ballots, while just 20% of those ages 18 to 34 had done so.
County election officials must verify results 30 days after the election.
The Secretary of State’s Office must certify the election eight days later, said spokesperson Jenna Dresner.
If the recall is successful, the new governor would be sworn in on Oct. 22 for the one year remaining in Newsom’s term in office, Dresner added.
California’s next gubernatorial election, whether Newsom is recalled or not, is scheduled for November 2022.
To find the voting site nearest you, visit Vote.ca.gov. All voting locations will be open on election day from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.
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