SACRAMENTO — California election officials are spending $16 million in a four-week ad blitz to educate people about voting in the recall that could remove Gov. Gavin Newsom, a campaign that’s officially nonpartisan but could benefit the first-term Democrat as he pushes for high turnout.
Through billboards, radio and digital ads, television spots and more, the campaign is designed to make sure voters know about the recall and understand how to cast a ballot. Every registered voter received a ballot in the mail, but many people might be confused or unaware of the race because it’s happening in late summer in an off-election year.
Secretary of State Shirley Weber has said her goal is to increase voter participation across all political affiliations.
“My goal is 100% voting, and why? Because I think everyone has a voice that needs to be heard,” Weber said on a recent call with reporters.
California has almost twice as many registered Democrats as Republicans. That makes it hard to untangle the public policy goal of urging people to exercise their right to vote from the reality that Democrats are likely to benefit, said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School with a focus on government ethics.
“It’s probably just difficult to structure any big get-out-the-vote effort in California without it looking like you are also supporting Democrats,” she said.
Weber, who was joined on the call by Attorney General Rob Bonta, also a Newsom appointee, said promoting voter turnout was not in service of a partisan aim.
“I would always ask the question: What is the alternative to it? To suppress the voting because you think there may be more Democrats registered in California than others?” she said.
California lawmakers approved $35 million for the secretary of state to spend on voter education in a party-line vote in June. It was part of a bill that allowed for an earlier recall, which Democrats hoped would help Newsom defeat it.