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The Gubernatorial Recall Election

The Gubernatorial Recall Election: What You Need to Know

Published: Wednesday, 25 August 2021

Written by Sierra Darwin, Chief ASI Government Relations Officer

You may have seen information about the Gubernatorial Recall Election plastered over local news, advertisements, and social media in the last few weeks. The Gubernatorial Recall Election of Gov. Newsom will occur on Sept. 14, 2021. Despite the extensive media coverage on the election, you may still be left with important questions. In this article, we will answer some commonly asked questions and provide the information necessary for you to be prepared when voting.

What is a recall election and how does it work?
In the Recall Election on Sept. 14, voters will decide whether to recall and replace the sitting California Gov. Gavin Newsom. According to the Secretary of State a gubernatorial recall petition in California must obtain signatures equivalent to 12% of the total amount of voters in the last gubernatorial general election (Weber, 2021). For instance, in the 2018 election (where Newsom took office) 12,464,235 Californians voted. The recall petition for Gov. Newsom obtained over the required 1,495,709 valid signatures required to initiate a recall election. This recall is considered a special election, and therefore it does not occur at the regular time in November. According to Article two of the California State Constitution, the Lieutenant Gov. has up to 180 days after the certification of the petition signatures to set a date and hold a special election to recall the sitting governor (Weber, 2021).

Can I still register to vote?
Yes! All legal California residents over the age of 18 can register to vote for the gubernatorial recall election. You can register to vote or check your registration status here:

The deadline to register to vote is Aug. 30, 2021. Californians that register to vote before this deadline will be eligible to receive a vote-by-mail ballot. If you do not register to vote before Aug. 30, don’t worry- you can still vote in the recall election on Sept. 14. According to the Secretary of State, if you do not register before Aug. 30, you can register in-person on election day or at early voting cites as a conditional voter (Weber, 2021). You can also register as a conditional voter at your county registrar’s office between Aug. 30 and Sept. 14. If you miss the registration deadline and need to register as a conditional voter, be prepared to show a valid California ID card and provide the last four digits of your Social Security number at the polling site (Weber, 2021). There is no significant difference between conditional ballots and regular ballots. Conditional ballots simply take extra time to be counted compared to regular ballots because the eligibility of the voter must be certified before the vote can be counted (Weber, 2021). You can find polling locations that accept conditional voter registration here:

Can I vote by mail in the recall election?
Yes! All registered voters will be sent a vote by mail ballot 29 days before the election. You may have already received yours in the mail! If you have not yet registered to vote, there are three options for obtaining a vote by mail ballot:

  1. If you register to vote online before the registration deadline on Aug. 30, you can select the option to become a “permanent vote-by-mail voter.” A ballot will be sent to the address listed on your registration form for the recall election. When you select this option, a vote by mail ballot will be sent to you for every election going forward (Weber, 2021).
  2. If you register to vote before the Aug 30 deadline but did not request to become a “permanent vote-by-mail voter” you can apply for a vote-by-mail ballot. Your vote-by-mail ballot application must be mailed and received by your county elections official no later than seven days before the election, on Sept. 7. Your application must be sent by mail and cannot be submitted online (Weber, 2020).
  3. If you register to vote after Aug. 30 or you do not mail a vote-by-mail application by Sept. 7, you can still be eligible to vote-by-mail. You can go in-person to your county elections office and submit a vote-by-mail application. This must be done in-person and cannot be mailed or submitted online (Weber, 2020).

Voting by mail is an easy and convenient option for voting in the gubernatorial recall election. According to the Secretary of State, vote-by-mail ballots must be postmarked by Sept. 14, 2021, and be received no more than seven days after the election to be counted (Weber, 2021). You can also return your vote-by-mail ballot to a drop box location or to any polling place in the state. Voters can also give authorization for another person to return their vote-by-mail ballot on their behalf if they are unable to do so. Instructions on how to certify another person to submit your ballot are located on the vote by mail ballot.

If you would like to go old school and vote in-person, you can do so. Polling locations will be open from 7am to 8pm on election day, Sept. 14. Select polling places across the state will also have early voting, beginning Sept. 4 (Weber, 2021). You can find early voting and polling locations here:

What is on the ballot?
In this election, voters will be asked two questions.

  1. “Do you want to recall Governor Newsom?”
  2. “If the governor is recalled, who do you want to replace him?”

You may vote on one or both questions for your ballot to be counted (Weber, 2021). If more than 50% of voters vote “YES” to recall Gavin Newsom, the person with the most votes on question two will replace Newsom. It is recommended that voters select a candidate for replacement, even if they vote “NO” on the recall. If someone votes “NO” on the recall but does not provide an option for replacement, their opinion is not voiced in the selection of a new Governor if Newsom is recalled. In this scenario, a Governor could be chosen without a majority or plurality of votes from Californians. It is advised by the Secretary of State and many civic engagement groups to vote on both questions, but it is not required for your ballot to be counted (Weber, 2021).

What can I do to make sure I vote successfully this September?
To ensure that you vote successfully, a voting plan is recommended. Do you want to vote-by-mail or in-person? How will you submit your ballot? Do you plan on voting on election day or at an early polling location? Having a plan makes voting easy. Make your plan as soon as possible. Here are some key dates to help you create your voting plan:

  • Aug. 16: Mail-in ballots are sent to all registered voters. Some ballot drop boxes open on this date.
  • Aug. 30:
  • The last day to register to vote online. After this day, you will have to register as a conditional voter at a polling place, or your county elections office.
  • Sept. 4:
  • Some early in-person voting begins.
  • Sept. 7:
  • Last day to submit a vote-by-mail ballot application.
  • Sept. 14:
  • Election Day. You can register to vote and cast a ballot in the recall on this day at any polling location.

Make voting easier by researching the candidates in advance. Maybe you already know that you want to vote “YES” or “NO” on the recall. If so, research the other candidates running to be Gov. Newsom’s replacement in the event of a recall. That way you can make an informed choice at the ballot box. If you are unsure if you want to recall Gov. Newsom, that’s okay. You have a few weeks to research and form an opinion!

Register to vote as soon as you can. The sooner you register to vote, the easier the process becomes. You can register to vote here:

Let’s show our Beach pride by voting in the gubernatorial recall election on Sept. 14! Go Beach!


Weber, S. (n.d.). California gubernatorial recall election - frequently asked questions. California Gubernatorial Recall Election - Frequently Asked Questions: California Secretary of State.

Weber, S. (n.d.). Vote by mail. Vote By Mail: California Secretary of State.