On Tuesday morning, a steady flow of voters made their way into the polling center at Los Angeles City College in East Hollywood. Some of them rushed inside the campus’ cafeteria with their completed mail-in ballots wedged under their arms before heading off to work or doctor’s appointments. Others seemed to still be finalizing their decisions as they stood near their cars, filling out their sample ballots before going inside the building.
After just a couple of months of fevered campaigning both for and against the effort to recall Governor Gavin Newsom, an unusual Election Day dawned in L.A. Throughout the city, Angelenos who hadn’t already voted early—either by mail or dropbox—headed to the polls to have a say in the immediate future of the Golden State: Will we stay the course with Newsom or will we abruptly change direction, likely with Republican radio host Larry Elder at the helm?
Mia De Guzman of East Hollywood seemed relieved as she walked outside of the polling center after casting her vote in support of Newsom. The 29-year-old, who learned about the election less than a week ago, had recently returned home from a wedding in Rhode Island and was worried that she wouldn’t have time to cast a ballot, especially since she didn’t receive one in the mail.
“I’m just grateful that it is easier [to vote] and I knew that if I didn’t, I would feel really guilty that I didn’t do my part,” she said.
De Guzman said she voted “no” on the first ballot question to recall Newsom because she doesn’t think the governor should be replaced, despite some of his minor missteps.
“It’s so fucked up,” she said of the recall election. “It feels like a game. It feels like this trick. Like this random card they’re playing and I didn’t know it was a thing.”
She added, “It’s so funny that we’re all trying to save Gavin Newsom when he wasn’t the best on certain things, but it’s like this is our only hope right now.”
Samir Shaw and Faizah Barlas of East Hollywood said they also voted in support of Newsom because they found the recall election to be a waste of time and money.
“We just really think that it’s important that he stays in office right now,” Shaw said. “I think the recall effort is kind of ridiculous to happen right now in the middle of everything else that’s happening.”
Barlas added, “… In the middle of the pandemic. I think we spent like—what was it—like $150 million for this election even though the governor election is happening in a year anyways. And it just kind of seems like that kind of leadership change would be really disruptive in the state at this point.” [Note: the election is expected to cost taxpayers upward of $276 million.]
“It just felt really unnecessary,” Barlas continued.
Tori Weller, 28, said watching what’s happened politically in Texas in recent weeks motivated her to participate in the recall election.
“I saw what’s happened in Texas with the Republican legislation there and the legislation on women’s bodies ,so I’ve been hearing a lot about how if our governor gets recalled here then that could be something that happens here,” the Tulane, Louisiana, native said.
Weller, who lives in East Hollywood now, said she agreed with some critics who called the recall a “sneaky election,” but she appreciated how people ranging from her peers to celebrities and influencers have been raising awareness about the significance of the election.
Maria Guerrero, who dropped off her mail-in ballot before heading to work in the area, said she voted to keep Newsom in office because she agrees with how he’s handled the COVID pandemic, a hot topic for Republicans who supported the recall.
“Sometimes families need support, even though there’s some people that take advantage of that, but mostly they need [financial] support because of COVID,” the San Fernando Valley resident said. “I could be in that same position if I got COVID and wasn’t getting paid because I couldn’t work.”
At Crenshaw High School in Hyde Park, wait times to vote were minimal late Tuesday morning. Tina Smith, a high school economics and social studies teacher, said she voted in favor of Newsom because she felt like there was an agenda to replace him.
“I’m not content with the other candidates, so I think that Governor Newsom hasn’t been in office long enough given the situation to say that it was necessary for a recall,” Smith, who’s in her 30s, said. “I think he did the best he could given the situation with our population and with COVID. So I mean, I think it was really an agenda where it’s like even if he had the exact opposite response like, ‘Let’s be like Florida and keep everything open,’ it could have still been like, ‘Oh, he kept everything open and people died and now let’s recall him.’
She continued, “It seemed like there was some other agenda to get someone less qualified to take over California because you don’t need a majority of votes to win the recall.”
Denise Ellington, who lives down the street from the high school, said she voted “no” on the recall and left the second ballot question blank.
“I think it’s a crime what the Republicans are trying to do by trying to remove our governor from office just for trying to make us safe,” Ellington said.
“I just don’t understand how our democracy is such that you can just recall people from office for no real reason,” she added. “I mean the only thing he did wrong was maybe go to a dinner without his mask on and that’s no reason to remove someone from office. But more importantly, I didn’t want our state to be in jeopardy of becoming a Republican state again.”
Ziggy Saravia, who lives near the high school, shared the same sentiment as Ellington, commenting that the election felt like a “political grab.”
“I decided to come out here and let them know that wasn’t cool,” the 35-year-old said.
Saravia added that he voted against the recall because he thinks Newsom has handled the pandemic well despite critics who’ve fought his decisions.
“This is unprecedented so he was bound to make some mistakes and the mistakes that he made were a little bit silly, but I love the way he’s handled it so far,” he said. “He’s been on the mask mandates. He’s followed the science. I’m a scientist so that’s a big part of why I came out here.”
Savaria said comments made by Newsom’s biggest competitor, Elder, also made him concerned. “Elder was saying a lot of weird stuff. Reparations for white people because they lost their slaves and I just saw a video of him arguing for George Zimmerman…” he said. “Especially for a Black man to be talking like that. He sounds very dangerous, so I had to make my voice heard.”
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