CALIFORNIA, USA — Update:
California Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom has defeated an attempt to oust him from office, overcoming Republican criticism of COVID-19 restrictions that shuttered schools and businesses.
“I’m humbled and grateful to the millions and millions that exercised their fundamental right to vote and express themselves so overwhelmingly by rejecting the division, by rejecting the cynicism, by rejecting so much of the negativity that’s defined our politics in this country over the course of so many years,” Newsom said following the election.
He said today's vote was a "yes" to science, vaccines and an end to the coronavirus pandemic.
On Tuesday, Newsom became the second governor in U.S. history to survive a recall election. He framed the race as an epic struggle to protect California’s progressive values on climate change, immigration and abortion and women’s rights from far-right extremists and followers of former President Donald Trump.
The outcome was being watched nationally with the 2022 midterm elections on the horizon, when control of Congress again will be at stake.
“Tonight is a win for the bold agenda put forth by President Biden, Governor Newsom, and Democrats in Congress to build our country back better, deliver on their promises, and get our country back on track. I am confident we will continue to do so in 2021, 2022, and beyond," Democratic National Committee Chair Jaime Harrison said in a statement.
Larry Elder, the leader among the challengers who sought to replace Newsom, spoke to his supporters Tuesday night. He railed against Gov. Newsom on topics ranging from water and power to education, crime and homelessness.
“I can’t think of anything that this man has done in the last two years that suggests he deserves another day in office," Elder said. "However, we recognize that we lost the battle but we are certainly going to win the war.”
He said that he was overwhelmed by the support for his run and said that people should "stay tuned" for what he does next.
Fate of California Gov. Gavin Newsom hangs on recall vote
Californians are casting the last of the ballots that will decide whether Gov. Gavin Newsom continues to lead them or if the nation’s most populous state veers in a more conservative direction amid anger over his actions during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Newsom is leading in polls. He is only the fourth governor in U.S. history and the second in California to face a recall. He was elected in a landslide less than three years ago. The leading Republican candidate is conservative talk show host Larry Elder, who is seeking to become California’s first Black governor.
What the candidates are doing on Election Day
With the polls open on Election Day, the candidates spread out across the state working to get their messages out to voters.
Gov. Newsom planned to visit with volunteers in San Francisco. Online he continued to lean on the visit from President Biden, telling his supporters on Twitter to listen to the President and "VOTE NO on the Republican Recall."
Larry Elder, who leads in several polls as the top candidate if the Governor is recalled, is asking his supporters to vote yes and return their ballots to a voting center. Elder also Tweeted a video of support from former Los Angeles Dodgers catcher Mike Piazza.
John Cox, who lost to Newsom in the gubernatorial election in 2018, began his morning in Long Beach, the city where Newsom campaigned with President Biden the night before. "It’s time for a new leader," Cox Tweeted. "I will fight for this state and address homelessness, housing, taxes, crime, and wildfires so people can stay in California."
Kevin Kiley shared a message with his supporters on Election Day, "Today we give new meaning to five forgotten words from our Declaration of Independence. The consent of the governed."
Kevin Paffrath, who is one of the few Democrats running in the recall election, Tweeted, "Vote. Trust the election process. Failing to vote is failing by default. Voting brings money to your district. Vote."
Caitlyn Jenner cast her vote this morning at Beverly Hills City Hall.
Republicans led by former President Donald Trump are raising unsubstantiated claims that California's recall election against Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom is rigged.
That messaging poses a problem for Republican Party officials, who are encouraging everyone to vote while maintaining concerns about the state's election security. GOP officials have vowed to watch over the race and possibly sue to challenge any irregularities.
As of Saturday, 7.8 million ballots have been cast, or 35% of registered voters. The secretary of state says California has the nation's strictest voting system security requirements. Much of the GOP criticism of California’s elections has focused on the wide use of mail-in ballots.
California Secretary of State Shirley Weber told ABC News that she feels the election is secure.
"We check, we recheck. We verify all of our machines that are being used; we use special paper for our ballots," Weber said. "We have a system, we train all of our workers, our staff works around the clock to make sure that any question that's asked is answered. So we work very hard to make it secure."
WATCH: Dr. Shirley Weber discusses the recall election of Gov. Gavin Newsom.
According to Political Data, Inc., nearly 40% of mail-in ballots were already returned before election day even came. Those votes are courtesy of vote-by-mail ballots that were sent in ahead of the election.
More than 22 million ballots were sent out and as of midnight, the data tracker shows that 8.7 million have already been returned. Most of the returned ballots have come from Democrats according to Paul Mitchell with Poliitcal Data, Inc.
However, that early vote might not be too surprising for some people. Last week, the Newsom campaign said they were expecting a large dump of Republican ballots the day of the election, but Democratic ballots are also to be counted in the days following.
Political Analyst Wendy Patrick previously told ABC10 that neither side should claim victory on election night because that's just when the vote count will begin.
Once all the votes are counted following the canvass, the future of Newsom's job as governor will be decided. If more than 50% of voters choose no, then Gov. Newsom stays in office. If more than 50% of voters choose yes, then Gov. Newsom is replaced with the person who received the most votes.
More information on the recall election
California Recall Fast Facts
On July 17, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber released a list of the 41 candidates who qualified to run in the recall election. About 70 candidates initially filed a statement of intent to run with the secretary of state, according to Ballotpedia.
On July 21, Weber signed off on the finalized list of candidates who'll appear on the recall ballot. The number grew to 46 after a judge ruled that candidates should not be required to submit tax forms for a recall election.
The final day for candidates to file paperwork to run in the recall election was July 16.
The final report from the Secretary of State's office, released on June 23, validated 1,719,943 signatures on the recall petition. The recall effort needed 1,495,709 verified signatures to trigger a recall election. Approximately 441,406 signatures were invalidated.
Only 43 people of the more than 1.7 million Californians who signed the recall petition chose to remove their name from the list.
On July 1, Lt. Gov. Eleni Kounalakis finalized the cost of the election at $276 million.