All of the state’s 22 million registered voters were mailed ballots last month. All counties were also required to make one or more early voting locations available for at least four days beginning the Saturday before the election, and many kept them open longer. So there’s already significant data about who’s casting votes. Republicans are hoping for a massive Election Day turnout that could tip the scales.
But to see whether that turnout advantage holds (and translates into Newsom’s survival), here are some specific places to watch on Tuesday.
1. The Big Blue areas where Democrats must perform
When those first results drop after the polls close at 8 p.m. PST, all California politicos will be looking closely at the margins in the heavily Democratic Bay Area (home to San Francisco and Oakland) and Los Angeles County to see whether Democrats managed to turn out the huge numbers in raw votes that could start to make the math look impossible for Republicans. Several Democratic strategists said that if the “no” side hits the mid-60s when that early vote posts from those areas, they believe Newsom will be headed for victory.
2. One-time GOP strongholds
Strategists will also be keeping a close eye on the traditionally red pockets of San Bernardino and Riverside Counties in the Inland Empire, which is east of Los Angeles, as well as within Orange County and eastern San Diego County to see if Republicans are able to pump up turnout there toward presidential levels and beyond.
“If there’s no Republican blowout in those areas, it’s impossible for the math to add up,” said Democratic strategist Bill Carrick. (San Bernardino and Riverside counties were once Republican strongholds, but the growing, diverse, younger populations in those areas has turned them blue in the last few presidential cycles).
Keep an eye on GOP turnout in a place like California’s 50th Congressional District in eastern San Diego County — the seat once held by former Rep. Duncan Hunter and now by GOP Rep. Darrell Issa — to gauge how high Republican enthusiasm is for the recall.
3. Flipped districts
The California battlegrounds of 2020 will be the battlegrounds of 2022. Last year, Republican Young Kim beat Democratic incumbent Gil Cisneros in California’s 39th Congressional District, which includes portions of Orange County, Los Angeles County and San Bernardino County. Republican Michelle Steel beat Democratic incumbent Harley Rouda in California’s 48th, which encompasses much of coastal Orange County, Huntington Beach and Costa Mesa.
“The results will tell me how much work we’ve got ahead of us,” said Mark Gonzalez, chair of the Los Angeles County Democratic Party. “This is a big training for the marathon that is to come for 2022.”