San Francisco Chronicle

Vote like your life is at stake

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If you lean Democratic, as the majority of people who live in California do, you’re likely feeling pretty good about Gov. Gavin Newsom’s chances of staving off the recall in today’s election. Recent polls show that only 38.5% of likely voters support recall while 60.1% are opposed. After months of doom and gloom about Newsom’s chances for survival, the word “landslide” has suddenly found its way into headlines.

But polls have been wrong before.

For those who feel that removing Newsom right now would deal the state a catastroph­ic blow at a time it can least afford it, as The Chronicle’s editorial board does, there are still some worrying numbers out there.

As of last Tuesday, according to data from the California Secretary of State’s office, only about 6.3 million mail-in ballots had been returned, accounting for a measly 28.3% turnout. For context, more than 5.5 million California­ns voted for Donald Trump in the 2020 election.

COVID-19 has shown us what happens when too many citizens fail to do their civic duty. More than 80% of eligible California­ns have received at least one dose of the COVID vaccine. And yet the failure of even a modest percentage of California­ns to follow suit has helped fuel a deadly surge of the coronaviru­s’ delta variant.

California desperatel­y needs herd immunity from the recall. And that means more of you need to vote.

A recall isn’t like most gubernator­ial elections. The person with the most votes is not guaranteed a win. If “no” on recall fails to achieve more than 50% of the vote, Newsom is out. Republican Larry Elder, who is polling at 26%, will likely be our next governor.

How much damage could Gov. Larry Elder do in a state with a Democratic supermajor­ity in the Legislatur­e?

Plenty.

We’ve seen what chaos grandstand­ing politician­s can cause on their own, particular­ly as it relates to public health and the COVID pandemic. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ anti-mask and laissez-faire vaccine policies — of the variety that Elder says he prefers — threw that state into its deadliest COVID surge yet. Similar policies by Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have led to similar results.

DeSantis and Abbott’s hands-off approach to the pandemic originated as efforts to open up their economies. And yet it is California’s economy that is booming. This success, even if its fruits aren’t enjoyed equally, has left us with a budget surplus that can invigorate the state’s social safety net.

Do we want to give Elder a year to turn California into Florida or Texas? We do not.

If you failed to register by the Aug. 30 deadline, California allows election day voter registrati­on. You can find more info at caearlyvot­ing.sos.ca.gov.

California, the nation and the world face unfathomab­le crises. If it was arrogant and entitled to think we had time to be aloof about politics before, it is suicidal to think so now. Elections aren’t entertainm­ent. They can’t be passively enjoyed per our whims. Your vote matters. Use it.

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