The GOP is using the format of Trump's election lies in the California gubernatorial recall, but it's unclear how it will work in the Golden State
- GOP operatives are embracing election fraud claims again ahead of the California recall election.
- For months, organizers, candidates, and media outlets have ratcheted up election conspiracies similar to 2020.
- Insider spoke to political experts about how Trump's "big lie" format is playing out in the recall race.
Former President Donald Trump and a crop of GOP candidates are laser-focused on reviving Trump-style election fraud claims in anticipation of a potential loss in the California governor recall election.
"In Trump's head, there are only two outcomes: Elections that his side wins and elections that are rigged," Jim Newton, a lecturer of public policy and veteran journalist, told Insider.
The premature calls of fraud in the California recall election mirror Trump's repeatedly debunked claims before the 2016 and 2020 elections - the latter which is still perpetuated and not only egged on the January 6 insurrection but sparked spurious audit campaigns and lawsuits, despite assurances from security officials that 2020 was the "most secure" election.
Elder was asked if he will accept the election results - regardless of who wins - twice and did not directly answer either time.
-Jacob Soboroff (@jacobsoboroff) September 13, 2021
"I think we all need to be looking at election integrity, whether you're a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent," Elder said, avoiding to commit multiple times.
Elder's campaign website took it a step further, asking residents to sign a form, "demanding a special session of the California legislature to investigate and ameliorate the twisted results of this 2021 Recall Election of Governor Gavin Newsom."
Earlier Monday, Trump asked his and California's Republican electorate a question in the same vein.
"Does anybody really believe the California recall election isn't rigged?" Trump said in a statement ahead of the election, recycling 2020's "Big Lie." "Millions and millions of Mail-In Ballots, will make this just another giant election scam, no different, but less blatant, than the 2020 Presidential Election."
-Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) September 13, 2021
However, Newton said that aside from the recall election being, "a way for political consultants to have business in odd-numbered years," recall elections are also a perfect storm for GOP candidates in California to stoke their bases and try to win seats in office that are otherwise virtually unattainable in general elections.
Thus far the system and the pandemic have given life to the recall movement: the organizers were given more time to collect signatures due to the pandemic, Newsom couldn't list his party affiliation next to his name on the ballot because he filed too late, and a lawsuit attempt from a civil rights lawyer to declare the recall election unconstitutional failed.
In his ruling, US District Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald said there was "nothing unconstitutional about placing in one ballot a vote for or against the recall of the governor and then a vote for a replacement candidate."
The conservative media ecosystem, however, has been playing up this idea of a fraudulent election for months.
According to Media Matters, Fox has run segments casting doubt about California's mail-in ballot systems, undocumented immigrants flocking to the polls, and stolen ballots.
In August, Conservative talking head Newt Gingrich recently told Fox News that Californians were printing extra ballots and mailing them in to inflate Newsom's tally, but according to Media Matters, Gingrich was referring to the Remote Accessible Vote-by-Mail system, created to assist disabled voters during the pandemic, and limited to one printout a person.
And in another pandemic election where many have voted by mail, it remains to be seen if the disinformation about mail-in ballots has suppressed participation on the Republican side.
"Typically, I think the conventional wisdom is that Republicans will vote earlier, so we would have seen a big influx in Republican numbers already if there was going to be one," Jessica Levinson, Clinical Professor of Law and Director of Loyola Law School's Public Service Institute, told Insider.
"Now, with the caveat that Republicans have been told for a long time 'Don't trust vote by mail,' so if they show up in really big numbers on September 14th, then this could change," Levinson added.
If the results on Tuesday mirror Newsom's landslide 2018 gubernatorial win against Republican opponent John Cox, it will mean most of California's political ecosystem can fend off the "Big Lie" for now, the experts said. But if he wins by a slim margin, the entire referendum, initiated by Trump-adjacent Republicans, could face calls of voter fraud that echo Trump's after November 2020.
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