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By Lillian Boyd

While every governor in California since 1960 has faced a recall attempt, the state will see only its second recall election in history this year.

The 2021 California gubernatorial recall election will have voters decide on Sept. 14 whether to recall Gov. Gavin Newsom. Ballots for the recall election were mailed out to California’s voters beginning Aug. 16.

Besides the upcoming recall, the only other attempt that ever reached an election was in 2003, when Gray Davis, a Democrat, was ousted, losing to Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Criticism over Newsom’s policies and how he handled his personal life throughout the coronavirus pandemic sparked a GOP-led petition to recall the governor, whose term is set to expire Jan. 2, 2023. That effort eventually garnered enough signatures from supporters.

The recall campaign officially started in February 2020. However, it gained traction as the pandemic hit, regulations tightened, and Newsom particularly faced fire for participating in an indoor event at a Napa Valley restaurant.

In November 2020, Newsom attended a private birthday party at The French Laundry, despite having urged Californians to socially distance and not travel.

“While the First Partner and I followed the restaurant’s health protocols and took safety precautions, I should have modeled better behavior and not joined the dinner,” Newsom said in a statement following the controversy.

California Secretary of State Shirley Weber certified the recall reelection on July 1, verifying that of the more than 2 million signatures supporting the recall effort, a little more than 1.7 million were determined to be valid.

The recall marks the second major election for Californians in as many years. Similar to the 2020 Presidential Election, the results of next month’s recall could have a significant impact on how the state addresses key issues including COVID-19, housing, homelessness, education, and more.

Recall leaders include a retired law enforcement officer and the former chair of the California GOP, but it has also drawn support from anti-vaxxers, militia members and conspiracy theorists.

When registered voters fill out their ballots, they’ll decide on two separate items. First is whether to vote “yes” or “no” to the question of removing Newsom from office. The second question asks voters to select a replacement candidate.

Voters who support the recall can vote to remove Newsom from office and then pick a replacement candidate. Those who vote no on the recall may still choose a replacement candidate should the recall effort succeed.

If a majority of the voters vote “yes” on the first question, then the recall is successful and Newsom will have to step down from office. The replacement candidate who gets the most votes is elected to serve out the remainder of the term, which is a little more than a year.

If 50% or more of the voters vote “no” on the first question, then the recall has failed and Newsom stays in office. The state’s next regular gubernatorial election is scheduled for Nov. 8, 2022.

Any California registered voter may vote in a gubernatorial recall election.

To check your voter registration status, go to To update your voter registration or find out whether you are eligible to register to vote, visit the state’s Online Voter Registration page at

Be sure to also check out our additional Recall Election Guide content including our Voter’s Resource on Where and How to Vote, and our Candidate Profiles.

Lillian Boyd
Lillian Boyd is the senior editor for Picket Fence Media and city editor for Dana Point Times. She graduated with a degree in journalism from Humboldt State University. Her work experience includes interviewing incarcerated individuals in the Los Angeles County jails, an internship at the Pentagon covering U.S. Army news as well as reporting and anchoring for a local news radio station in Virginia. Follow her on Twitter @Lillianmboyd and follow Dana Point Times at @danapointtimes.

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