Voter fraud claims create 'circus-like atmosphere,' stir California recall of Gov. Gavin Newsom
- 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, raised the prospect this week of voter fraud playing a role if Newsom comes out victorious in the vote Sept. 14.
The California Republican Party created an election integrity website for voters to report suspicious election activity, aiming to "ensure every vote is counted and verified."
California could become the next focus of costly recount efforts and audits in response to claims of election insecurity. Similar efforts after the 2020 election in states including Arizona, Georgia, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania failed.
One of the recall organizers called the voter fraud claims 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 served as an adviser and spokesman in the recall effort, told USA TODAY.
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Economy, who worked for former Rep. Doug Ose before he dropped out of the recall race for health reasons, applauded California election officials, describing them as "heroes" who are under an "enormous amount of pressure" as they battle being labeled "villains." He said candidates, similarly, shouldn't make 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 an interview Tuesday night on Newsmax, Trump predicted the race would be "a rigged election." Trump has repeatedly criticized mail-in voting in 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 leads the pack of 46 candidates vying to replace Newsom, said Wednesday, "I believe that there might very well be shenanigans, as it were in the 2020 election."
Voter fraud claims garnered 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.
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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 because of 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, that person will be contacted. Each ballot has its own unique bar code and is watermarked, so officials can verify it, ensure votes are tabulated correctly and prevent votes from those who are not 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.
Contributing: Tom Coulter, Palm Springs Desert Sun; The Associated Press