September 17, 2021

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Why won’t all write-in votes count in California’s recall election? – San Francisco Chronicle

2 min read

SACRAMENTO — Strange as it may seem, California voters can’t just write in any name they want on the Sept. 14 recall ballot — at least if they want their vote on the second question to count.

Votes for write-in candidates are only tabulated if the name is included on a list of certified candidates assembled by the secretary of state. That list, released Friday afternoon, contains seven names, none of them well-known.

California’s recall ballot has just two questions: Should Gov. Gavin Newsom be removed, and who should replace him? If a majority of voters chooses to recall Newsom, then the top vote-getter among the replacements wins, even if the total share of the electorate is well below a majority.

Ballots mailed to more than 22.27 million registered California voters last month include 46 official replacement candidates and a blank space to write in preferred candidate who isn’t listed.

The list of certified candidates was released more than two weeks after voters began receiving their ballots. And nearly a quarter of all registered voters or 5.4 million people, have already returned ballots, according to Political Data Inc., a consulting firm.

Why wait to certify write-in candidates until weeks after voters have started casting ballots?

Consider it a strange quirk of California election law: County elections officials must accept nomination paperwork from write-in candidates until 14 days prior to an election, or Aug. 31 in the case of the recall.

Secretary of State Shirley Weber’s office said it would take until Sept. 3 to certify the candidates and post the list.

The list includes seven names, along with the candidates’ party affiliations: Roxanne (no last name given), Democrat; Stacy Smith, Democrat; Major Williams, Republican; Thuy E. Hugens, American Independent; Miki Habryn, no party preference; Vince Lundgren, no party preference; and Vivek B. Mohan, no party preference.

Meanwhile, some Democrats have questioned whether they could try to prevent a Republican from becoming governor by writing in Newsom’s name, or that of another well-known Democrat, such as Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis, for a replacement candidate.

The answer for both Newsom and Kounalakis: No. Neither is a certified write-in candidate.

Enter either name in the blank space on the ballot — or anyone else you fancy who doesn’t happen to be among the seven on the official list — and it will be ignored.

Dustin Gardiner is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: dustin.gardiner@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @dustingardiner

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