In summary

The same forces pushing Black voter suppression efforts in Georgia, Texas and other states are bankrolling the recall in California.

Profile Image

By Ginger Rutland, Special to CalMatters

Ginger Rutland is a retired journalist, former editorial board member of The Sacramento Bee and struggling playwright,

As a Black woman, I take the California recall election personally. It is an undemocratic assault on my right to vote. 

The same forces pushing Black voter suppression efforts in Georgia, Texas, Florida and other states are bankrolling the recall in California. The perpetuators of the “Big Lie,” the backers of the insurrection at the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6, those who would delegitimize the free and fair election of Joe Biden are now trying to nullify Gov. Gavin Newsom’s election in California.

Let’s not pussyfoot around the goal here. Having been trounced at the polls three years ago, Republicans want a do-over. But they know the only way to win is to reduce voter turnout. 

With the special election set for next week, with nothing else on the ballot and the public distracted by a resurging pandemic and worries about children returning to school classrooms, the recall election is not high on voters’ personal agendas. But it should be.

 Voters are being forced to pay for this electoral abomination. The California Association of Clerks and Election Officials estimates it will cost $400 million. That’s enough money to supply 200,000 tiny homes to house the legions of homeless in California. It could pay the annual cost for mental health services for all California school children. And the vote comes just nine months before a regularly scheduled gubernatorial primary when voters can select a governor of their choice at one-quarter of the cost of this special election.  

But the waste of money is not the only evil here. The recall as a device, is wide open for abuse and manipulation. Just about anyone – wealthy special interests, extreme partisans, purveyors of nutcase conspiracy theories, i.e. anti-vaxxers and mask opponents – can put a recall on the ballot. Unlike impeachment, the targeted elected official faces no formal charges. He does not have to commit high crimes or misdemeanors, or any act of moral turpitude. 

There is no trial, no open public forum presided over by an impartial jurist where the elected official can defend himself. Instead, the recall campaign is a popularity contest played out on TV, radio and the internet. And, should voters approve the recall – a horrifying prospect – our next governor will have garnered a tiny fraction of the votes of the person he or she replaces. How is this democratic? How is this fair or even rational?    

But why does this recall election feel like a personal assault against me, a Black citizen? Because, in the not so distant past, hooded terrorists lynched, shot and beat my people to keep us from going to the polls to vote. Now elected officials in suits sitting in state legislatures across this country pass laws that are designed to do the same thing – reduce the number of polling places in communities where Blacks live, redraw voting district boundaries to dilute the Black vote and limit the ability to vote by mail. They even want to bar people from passing out water to people who look like me when our wait to vote stretches on for hours.

And in California, partisan special interests seek to negate our vote and to recall a governor that Black citizens voted for overwhelmingly in 2018. 

I am so tired of this never-ending assault on my right to vote, but I refuse to turn my back on all those Black heroines – Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth, Fanny Lou Hammer and today’s Stacey Abrams.  I will vote “No” on recall, and I urge all fair-minded citizens of good will to vote “No” with me.  

We want to hear from you

Want to submit a guest commentary or reaction to an article we wrote? You can find our submission guidelines here. Please contact CalMatters with any commentary questions: