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California recall process highlights NPV flaw
Trent England • Aug 11, 2021

The next governor of California could be someone almost nobody has ever heard of—even in California. This is because the California recall process is, in a sense, extremely democratic. In the election next month, voters in the Golden State face two choices: yes or no on recalling the governor, and voting for a new governor in case the recall succeeds. There are 46 candidates on the ballot.

Just like with the National Popular Vote interstate compact (NPV), there is no runoff or other provision to prevent a candidate from winning with a tiny plurality. In California, a candidate could win with less than 5% of the vote. More likely, considering recent polls, the winner will have between 15% and 30% of the vote.

In most American elections, the party nominating process forces voters to compromise and coalesce around two candidates. And voting for representatives by district limits the influence of any particular region as it distributes power across many regions. The Electoral College does this—we vote within each state to determine how our state’s electoral votes will be cast—and it also requires a majority of electoral votes to win.

The NPV plan would manipulate the Electoral College, attempting to force it to rubber-stamp the national popular vote result. This would eliminate checks and balances on power and end the majority requirement. This, in turn, would increase the role of splinter parties, spoiler candidates, and billionaire candidates in presidential politics. As more candidates run, winners are likely to have smaller and smaller pluralities.

Polls suggest voters are split on whether to recall Gov. Newsom. If he is recalled, California’s next governor will be chosen in a process so “democratic” that it could produce a winner who three-fourths of voters oppose.