Democratic analysts worry that apathy from voters who believe the recall is a longshot could drive Newsom to lose his seat.
Concerning Polls for Newsom Camp
The previously far-fetched effort to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) appears to have gained momentum in recent weeks, posing a larger threat to the leader than previously anticipated just under a month before the Sept. 14 election.
Supporters of the Republican-led recall election, which was officially certified in July after organizers collected 1.7 million verified signatures, have cited a number of reasons for their desire to oust Newsom.
Among them are the state’s high taxes, the homelessness crisis, and the governor’s position on hot-button issues like immigration.
GOP groups tried to recall Newsom over such policies five times in the past, but their latest attempt garnered traction during the pandemic. The new movement is largely driven by Republican opposition to his handling of the crisis — specifically the shutdowns of schools and businesses and the state’s vaccine rollout.
Newsom, for his part, has painted the recall as a stunt lead by political extremists and supporters of former President Donald Trump.
One poll published Aug. 4 by Survey USA and the San Diego Union Tribune found that 51% of respondents were in favor of recalling Newsom, whereas only 40% wanted to keep him in power. While supporters made up a slim majority, the figures are highly notable because a poll conducted in May by the same organizations found that just 36% supported the recall and 47% opposed it.
Further complicating matters for Newsom is the fact that polls have also consistently shown a big enthusiasm gap among Democrats, meaning Republicans are far more likely to drive turnout.
There are also a number of other hurdles Newsom faces. Like many other governors right now, Newsom is again dealing with the massive surge in COVID-19 cases driven by the Delta variant.
Not only has that hurt on-the-ground campaign efforts, but it has also means there is now increased scrutiny from both sides over how he handles the surges. Given that much of the recall already focused on Newsom’s handling of the pandemic last fall, new health orders could pose a serious threat to his chances of winning.
In addition to the pandemic, the governor is struggling with the fact that wildfire season in California has begun early and is already shaping up to be just as bad, if not worse, than last year.
The state is also in a historic drought, which has caused water shortages and prompted Newsom to impose emergency declarations in 50 of the state’s 58 counties last month.
Concerns About Ballot Confusion
Beyond Newsom’s problems, experts have expressed concern that the two questions posed on the recall ballot will confuse voters.
The first question — “shall the governor be recalled?” — will be answered by a vote of “yes” for those who wish him to be removed or a vote of “no” for those who do not.
Political analysts say this could create a problem that is often seen with yes or no questions on ballots: voters who wish to oppose a policy or politician will intuitively vote “no” on their ballot, and vice-versa for those who wish to support and vote “yes.”
The second question will ask voters to select a candidate they would like to replace Newsom, and while that is more straightforward, the Democrat’s messaging on this is not.
Newsom’s camp has told people to leave the second question blank. Nathan Click, an advisor to Newsom, recently told supports that simply voting “no” on the first question “is the only way to block the Republican power grab and prevent a Republican takeover of California.”
That is not technically true. Out of the 46 candidates challenging Newsom, nine are Democrats, three are minor parties, and a 10 are “no party preference.”
As a result, Democratic strategists worry that if Newsom is ousted, a new governor could be chosen by just a fraction of the electorate. While a majority is needed to recall the governor, only a plurality is needed to select a successor.
As far as who would replace Newsom, the field is very crowded, but most recent polls have shown conservative talk radio host Larry Elder leading the Republicans by fairly solid margins.
Meanwhile, YouTuber and real estate broker Kevin Paffrath leads among the Democrats challenging Newsom.
The polls, however, show large discrepancies regarding candidate selection.
One survey by UC Berkeley and the Los Angeles Times conducted at the end of the last month showed Paffrath polling behind four Republicans with just 3% of respondents saying he was their first choice.
By contrast, the August San Diego Union Tribune poll showed him leading even above Elder with 27% of those who said they supported ousting Newsom backing the YouTuber.
See what others are saying: (The Los Angeles Times) (CNBC) (CNN)
Virginia Governor’s Tip Line to Report Teachers Spammed by Trolls
The tip line was created for parents to report educators who violate the governor’s new executive orders banning critical race theory and making masking optional.
Youngkin’s Controversial Policies
Celebrities, TikTok activists, and other social media users have been spamming an email tip line set up by Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) intended for parents to report teachers and “divisive practices in their schools.”
The tip line was implemented after the new governor enacted several highly controversial policies targeted at public schools in the weeks since taking office.
On his first day, Youngkin signed an executive order banning so-called critical race theory (CRT) from being taught in public schools. CRT, which is largely taught in higher education institutions, is not included in Virginia’s curriculum standards. As a result, many educators and scholars have expressed concerns that the policy will be used to broadly restrict the accurate teaching of history.
Shortly after imposing the CRT ban, Youngkin further angered educators by signing an executive order making masking optional in schools. According to a recent analysis by The Washington Post, the majority of Virginia schools enrolling two-thirds of all students have actively disobeyed the order.
The email tip line, introduced Monday, is intended to report educators and schools that do not follow Youngkin’s policies.
Calls to Spam Tip Line
The tattle-on-a-teacher tip line prompted widespread criticism. Many people took to Twitter to urge other users to spam the email, including major names with massive followings, like musician John Legend.
“Black parents need to flood these tip lines with complaints about our history being silenced. We are parents too,” he tweeted.
Several TikTok activists also encouraged their followers to bomb the tip line as well, including 21-year-old Sofia Ongele, who even launched a website that automatically generates emails to send to the line that include the name of a public school in Virginia and lyrics to a pop song.
Ongele told Insider that, so far, the website has gotten a lot of traffic, attracting about 1,500 people every 30 minutes.
These efforts are not the first time social media users, and specifically young TikTokers, have encouraged others to troll a tip line set up by conservative figures. In September, TikTokers also sent fake reports, porn, and Shrek memes to a tip line intended to report people who violated Texas’ six-week abortion ban.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (Insider) (WDBJ7)
Federal Court Throws Out Alabama Congressional Map, Citing Racial Gerrymandering
The judges ruled that the Republican-held legislature gerrymandered the map so the state only had one Black-majority district despite Black residents composing 27% of the state’s population.
Alabama Ordered to Redraw Map
A panel of federal judges tossed Alabama’s new congressional map on Monday, ruling that the current version significantly weakens the voting power of Black residents.
In their decision, the three judges noted that while about 27% of Alabamians are Black, the map drawn by the Republican-led legislature after the 2020 census was gerrymandered to leave just one of the state’s seven districts with a Black majority.
“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the judges wrote. “We find that the plaintiffs will suffer an irreparable harm if they must vote in the 2022 congressional elections based on a redistricting plan that violates federal law.”
As a result, the panel also ordered state lawmakers to redraw their map so that it includes “two districts in which Black voters either comprise a voting-age majority or something quite close to it.”
The legislature was given 14 days to redo their map before they appoint a special master to do so.
Ongoing Legal Battles
Shortly after the ruling, a spokesperson for Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall said in a statement that his office “strongly disagrees with the court’s decision and will be appealing in the coming days.”
According to reports, the matter could ultimately go to the Supreme Court, which would decide whether lawmakers can draw maps that are gerrymandered along racial lines.
The high court ruled in 2019 that federal courts do not have the power to block congressional maps that are gerrymandered to skew districts in a partisan manner unless a state’s constitution explicitly prohibits such gerrymandering. The justices did keep parts of the Voting Rights Act that ban racial or ethnic gerrymandering, which the federal panel claimed was the case in Alabama.
Alabama’s congressional map is not the only one drawn by Republicans that has been thrown out in recent weeks. Earlier this month, Ohio’s Supreme Court ordered lawmakers to redraw a map that would have given Republicans 12 congressional seats and Democrats just three despite the fact that recently the GOP has only won about 55% of the popular vote statewide.
The state’s high court ruled that the map clearly violated a constitutional amendment overwhelmingly passed by voters in 2018 that effectively banned partisan gerrymandering.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Washington Post) (AL.com)
Supreme Court Agrees to Hear Affirmative Action Cases at Harvard and UNC
The decision to take up the two cases marks the first time affirmative action will go before the high court’s latest conservative-majority bloc.
SCOTUS Takes on Race-Conscious Admissions, Again
The Supreme Court announced Monday that it will again consider whether race-conscious admissions programs at universities are legal in two cases that could have serious implications for affirmative action.
The two lawsuits center around admissions policies at Harvard University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC), both of which were brought by the conservative nonprofit Students for Fair Admissions.
The Harvard case started in 2014 with a lawsuit that claimed the school discriminated against Asian American students by effectively creating a quota for their admission. It also alleged the school a subjective standard to measure personality traits like likability, courage, and kindness.
The Ivy League school denied the allegations, claiming the challengers used incorrect statistical analysis and broadly arguing that race-conscious policies are legal.
In the case against UNC, the group alleged that the school discriminated against white and Asian applicants by giving preference to Black, Hispanic, and Native American students.
The university, for its part, argued that its policies create more diversity among its student body, also echoing Harvard’s argument that such rules are legal under decades of Supreme Court precedents.
Past Precedent Up in the Air
Lower courts ruled in favor of both schools, finding they did indeed comply with Supreme Court decisions.
But in taking up these two cases, the high court’s conservative majority will now examine whether race-conscious admissions are legal at all. The move could decide the future of affirmative action and undermine more than four decades of precedent on the use of race in college admissions.
The last two times the high court took up cases regarding affirmative action, the justices upheld the constitutionality of race-conscious programs by slim majorities. Now, those majorities have been replaced by a conservative bloc that includes three justices appointed by former President Donald Trump.
According to reports, the justices will likely hear the cases in October.