If you're a registered voter in California, your ballot for the gubernatorial recall election should be showing up in your mailbox soon, if you haven't received it already.
The ballot includes two questions. The first one asks, “Should governor Gavin Newsom be removed as governor?”
The second one asks, “Who should succeed Newsom if he's recalled?” It gives you a long list of candidates to choose from.
Joe Mathews, a columnist with Zocalo Public Square, answers some of the most frequently asked questions about the recall ballot.
KCRW: The Democratic Party and the Newsom campaign are urging voters to leave that second question blank. Who would it help?
Matthews: “It helps Gavin Newsom. It asks whether you are going to keep Newsom or pick one of these 46 people — none of whom is particularly well known.
And it probably helps the Republican Party if Newsom gets recalled. It makes it more likely that if Democrats are not voting, the leading Republican of the contenders will be governor.”
If you're opposed to the recall, should you answer the second question on the ballot?
“As I said to someone who decided not to vote in the same question, it’s fine by me [if you don’t fill it out], but I'm not listening to any of your complaints if the governor is recalled and you don't like the person who gets to be elected governor.
I think it's worth voting in the second question even if Newsom stays. If you're more Republican, you can give the tip to a Republican you would like, perhaps as a candidate for the governor's race just next year.
If you are sympathetic to California’s independents, you could vote for a guy named Michael Loebs, a San Francisco State lecturer who is part of the California National Party. [He] is on the ballot.
If you're perhaps a journalist who wants a different life path, there's a journalist-turned-shaman on the ballot who's a Democrat.”
When it comes to that second question, what is the most strategic thing to do?
“If you're a Democrat, you want to vote for a Democrat. The person who seems to have the best knowledge is this YouTuber named Meet Kevin.
The Newsom argument in not filling out the second question is that you'll be able to see how many fewer people voted. And that would undermine the legitimacy of the potential winner.”
What is the most democratic thing to do?
“It’s to research and find someone that you think can do the job and go with that.
I would caution that this is not really different from a typical election. We've had over 30 candidates on ballots for the Senate.
Having this problem of not knowing who the people are and who to vote for is a common one. Even if you have the one person you want to vote for, you’ll have to find them on the ballot, which may go on multiple pages.”
If the recall is approved, somebody could be elected governor with just 10% of the votes and without winning the majority. Is this an unusual system?
“People should recognize that this recall ballot and its problems are not just about the recall. The way we are doing elections doesn't work. It's a piece of this, and we should be doing it differently.
We need to have systems that dole out representation proportionally as done in other countries. They allow you to vote for a party or a person.
Within our system — even a system like rank choice voting, which New York City just used for its mayor — would allow people to vote for multiple candidates or multiple people of a party or ideology. It would be a true expression of what people want, rather than having to sort through a big group of names.
If you're trying to vote strategically, you're already in a bad place. People should get to vote for who they want in the best, closest expression of what they're for in a democracy. This recall system doesn’t meet that basic test.”