Victory for the Democratic camp of Joe Biden: the voters of California have decided to keep their governor in office, voting overwhelmingly “no” in the referendum organized by his detractors to obtain his revocation, according to the first estimates released Tuesday evening by the American media.
Less than an hour after the polls closed (8 p.m. local time, 3 a.m. GMT Wednesday), the “no” was getting about two-thirds of the votes after more than 60% of the ballots already counted had been counted, according to CNN and NBC.
With such a lead, both channels believe Democrat Gavin Newsom will remain governor of the most populous state in the United States and complete his term, even if the Republican ballots rebalance the score in the hours or days to come.
Some 9 million voters had voted early, which made it possible to obtain rapid first projections.
“As a State, we have said yes to science”
The outcome of the ballot is a victory for Governor Gavin Newsom, weakened by the covid crisis and the health measures decreed to stem the pandemic, but also for the entire Democratic camp.
Proof of the national stake of this referendum in a state equivalent to the fifth economic power in the world, President Joe Biden went to California on Monday to support Gavin Newsom and put all the chances on his side to win this first electoral test since his election to the White House last year.
This vote “says yes to what is dear to us Californians,” said Gavin Newsom upon the announcement of these first results. “As a state, we have said yes to science, yes to vaccines, yes to the end of the pandemic (…) yes to the right to vote without fear of false accusations of fraud,” said the governor.
Like Donald Trump, most of the Republican candidates who hoped to take the governor’s place had started contesting the ballot and crying out electoral fraud even before the end of voting operations, a strategy that has now become commonplace in the conservative camp.
A favorite in the event of a “yes” victory, ultra-conservative radio host Larry Elder has so far refused to say whether he would accept the results of the poll. He launched a website inviting his supporters to denounce any irregularities they witness in order to preserve the “integrity” of the vote.
Gathered in Orange County for what was billed as a “victory party”, supporters of Larry Elder denied the results ginned Tuesday night by televisions. “We don’t believe these polls, do we? Kelly Ernby said to a crowd strewn with red “Make America Great Again” hats from Donald Trump fans. Larry Elder, “it is the clone of Donald Trump”, had launched the day before President Joe Biden during his trip near Los Angeles.
$ 280 million
Using a provision of the Californian Constitution, disgruntled citizens – very quickly rallied by the Republican Party – obtained this “recall ballot” allowing to dismiss a governor outside any electoral calendar, after having collected more than 1.5 million votes. signatures.
Echoing the deep divide that divides the United States, Californians supporters of the referendum denounce excessive taxes, a democratic “elite” perceived as contemptuous and individual freedoms flouted by the authorities since the start of the pandemic.
Opponents saw it as a maneuver to take control of a fiercely democratic state, out of reach for the conservatives in a classic election.
Voters had a choice of 46 candidates, overwhelmingly Republicans, including 69-year-old African American Larry Elder, 69-year-old African American, transgender icon Caitlyn Jenner, famous for being a member of the Kardashian clan, and a multitude of other more or less eccentric candidates.
“We have to get rid of our governor because I think he’s a corrupt Democrat, like the people we have in the federal government (…) We need someone who truly represents the people”, said Farid Efraim , who voted for Larry Elder.
“This referendum is ridiculous,” retorts Jake, 38, questioned by AFP at the exit of another polling station. I calculated that even if each of the voters actually voted, it will cost more than twelve dollars per ballot… ”, he notes.
The cost of the referendum is estimated at nearly 280 million dollars by the authorities.
18 years ago, a similar vote allowed Arnold Schwarzenegger to conquer California by bringing down the then Democratic governor.