- The California Republican Party has created an election integrity website for voters to report suspicious election activity aiming to “ensure every vote is counted and verified.”
- In a Tuesday night interview on Newsmax, Donald Trump predicted the race would be “a rigged election” to keep Gov. Gavin Newsom in office.
- California is a primarily blue state, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1.
LOS ANGELES — The recall election aiming to oust Gov. Gavin Newsom could make California the next target of right-wing campaigns aiming to discredit the results of an election.
Maybe it already has.
Former President Donald Trump, Fox News’ Tomi Lahren and the leading Republican candidate to replace Newsom, Larry Elder, have raised the prospect this week of voter fraud playing a role if Newsom comes out victorious in the Sept. 14 election.
And the California Republican Party has created an election integrity website for voters to report suspicious election activity aiming to “ensure every vote is counted and verified.”
The statements offer clues that California could well become the next epicenter of voter fraud claims, costly recount efforts and audits due to claims of election insecurity. It comes on the heels of similar efforts after the 2020 election in states including Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania – all of which failed and were repeatedly proven false.
The propping-up of voter fraud claims in California is being fiercely criticized by one of original recall organizers who called the claims both false and a disservice to the state.
“I think the people, the pundits of the world like Tomi Lahren and others who are fueling this fire, need to back off,” Randy Economy, a former Trump campaign volunteer who previously served as a key advisor and spokesman in the recall effort, told USA TODAY.
California recall:New polls favor Newsom by comfortable margin
Keep Gov. Gavin Newsom, or kick him out of office? What to know about California recall election.
Economy, who worked for former Rep. Doug Ose before he dropped out of the recall race for health reasons, also applauded California election officials, describing them as “heroes” who are under an “enormous amount of pressure” as they battle being labeled as “villains.” He added candidates, similarly, shouldn’t be making voter fraud claims.
“I think it’s most important for the candidates to make their case on why they should be the governor and why Newsom should go,” Economy told USA TODAY. “To continue to make this a circus-like atmosphere is not doing anybody any good.”
In a Tuesday night interview on Newsmax, Trump predicted the race would be “a rigged election.” Trump has repeatedly criticized universal mail-in voting in states like California, saying the practice would make the 2020 presidential race the most “INACCURATE AND FRAUDULENT Election in history.”
Also Tuesday, Lahren claimed “the only thing that will save Gavin Newsom is voter fraud.” Elder, a conservative radio host who polls show is leading the pack of 46 candidates vying to replace Newsom, similarly raised the possibility Wednesday, saying, “I believe that there might very well be shenanigans, as it were in the 2020 election.”
Voter fraud claims began garnering momentum late last month after a man was arrested in Torrance, about 20 miles southwest of Los Angeles. He was found with 300 unopened ballots in his car. The ballots were among thousands of other pieces of mail, along with drugs and a loaded firearm. Police said the ballots hadn’t been tampered with.
California governor recall election night guide: What to watch for as results come in
California is a primarily blue state, where registered Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 2 to 1. A Democrat, Newsom was elected in 2018 after he won nearly 62% of the vote, outpacing Republican John Cox by about 24 percentage points. Cox is again running to replace Newsom but lagging in the polls.
The state expanded the accessibility of vote-by-mail before the 2020 election due to the pandemic and allows ballots to be automatically sent to all registered voters. Signatures on ballots are verified by the state and if one is missing or does not match the person’s signature on file, they will be contacted. Each ballot also has its own unique barcode and is watermarked so officials can verify it, ensure votes are tabulated correctly and prevent votes from those who are not actively registered or who attempt to vote multiple times.
As of Monday, more than 6 million people, or 27.3% of California’s 22.3 million registered voters, had returned their ballots ahead of the Sept. 14 election.
Contributing: Tom Coulter, Palm Springs Desert Sun; The Associated Press