‘Find the Votes’: Newsom Scrounging for (Only) Democrat Mail-In Ballots to Pass Signature Tax Increase

One of the biggest issues facing California is rampant homelessness and the inability to compel homeless people who are mentally ill to comply with treatment recommendations, specifically medication and inpatient treatment. Billions of dollars have been spent over the last two decades on housing, bridge housing, treatment programs, and more, yet the problem – and the body count – has only grown. Now that people nationwide are aware of just how bad the problem is, Gov. Gavin Newsom knows he has to deal with it if he ever wants to be a serious candidate for national office. So, he got a $6.4 billion ballot measure placed on the March ballot advertised as a way to get mentally ill homeless people treatment and housing and became the face of the campaign.

Newsom won re-election in 2022 by nearly 20 points, his Yes on 1 campaign raised over $21 million to flood the airwaves – digital, TV, and radio – and the No on 1 campaign spent just a few thousand dollars. The California Republican Party didn’t even take a stance opposing it (more on that in a future piece). It should have been an easy win for Newsom, right?


As of Monday morning, the measure was only ahead by 17,000 votes, with over 200,000 unprocessed ballots statewide. That’s been the margin for nearly a week, and Newsom’s so panicked about a possible loss that he canceled his State of the State speech scheduled for Monday.

In addition, he’s launched a massive statewide effort to find the votes needed to ensure the passage of Prop 1, through his Campaign for Democracy PAC.

The email says, in part:

“The votes are being counted, and it is CLOSE. Like, just a couple thousand votes close.
“We need help reaching out to Democrats who have had their ballots rejected for things like forgetting to include a signature and get their ballots counted.”

Hmm, that sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Another elected official was indicted for trying to “find” enough votes to win a statewide contest.

Here’s the full email:

So why isn’t the media hyperventilating about Newsom being an election denier or accusing him of trying to manipulate an election? After all, he’s using his federal PAC to ask for and train volunteers, and is only focusing on ensuring the votes of a certain kind of voter are counted. Are the ballots of no party preference and Republican voters less valuable to free and fair elections? Does he want these people disenfranchised?

(Yes, those are rhetorical questions.)

For readers who are not familiar with the ballot curing process in California, here’s some background on the process.

  • It’s only for mail-in ballots, since in-person ballots are not rejected.
  • Each county’s registrar of voters publishes a list of voters whose ballots were “challenged” or “rejected” regularly during the ballot counting process. Any campaign can obtain that list by paying a fee.
  • An individual can check on the status of their mail-in ballot by checking their county elections website or calling, and must be informed about why their ballot was rejected and how to cure it.
  • Campaigns send out canvassing teams to the homes of voters whose ballots were rejected and attempt to get those voters to sign the appropriate form(s) to cure their ballot’s deficiency (there’s a different form for a mismatched signature than there is for a missing signature, etc.).
  • The campaign or voter returns their signed form to the county registrar of voters.

Given the amount of money spent on the Yes on 1 campaign, it shouldn’t even have been close. The San Francisco Chronicle’s Emily Hoeven writes:

That the measure is a nail-biter underscores one of the governor’s biggest political flaws: hubris. Newsom undoubtedly thought that he had Prop. 1 in the bag. He strong-armed state lawmakers into postponing other initiatives originally set to appear on the March 5 primary ballot so that Prop. 1 would have voters’ undivided attention. He effectively silenced any organized opposition by exerting his influence as the state’s most powerful elected official. And his ballot measure committee supporting Prop. 1 spent more than $12 million promoting it, while the grassroots campaign opposing the measure raised a paltry $2,000.

Hoeven only counted the amount spent by the Yes on Prop. 1 campaign as of February 17, the last full report prior to the election on March 5. We know there was a significant amount of money spent in between then and Election Day, that the committee took in a total of $21 million, and that they’re still collecting money for this ballot curing effort (a $125,000 contribution from a Blue Cross subsidiary posted on March 18).

Hoeven’s not the only Sacramento watcher noting the significance of the close vote for Newsom. From Politico:

Newsom’s post-election ballot mobilization is a remarkable ploy for a statewide effort and reflects the stakes for a governor who has thrown his political heft and warchest behind the measure. Proposition 1 is a key pillar of the governor’s wider plan to combat homelessness — regarded as a top concern among California voters — and its failure would be a major blow to his political and policy agenda.
“It’s highly unusual for a statewide measure,” said Steven Maviglio, a Sacramento-based Democratic consultant who has worked on statewide campaigns. “I’ve never heard of that before.”

Also unusual in this case is the fact that the margin has pretty steadily declined since the first totals posted on Election Night. By the end of the night the margin was at 50.2 percent, and has stayed relatively steady since. There was one blip at the end of the day on March 11 where the margin was about 47,000 votes, and that’s when the No on Prop 1 campaign conceded. But since then, and knowing that Newsom launched his own rescue campaign, they’ve revived their campaign. On their website they noted:

Out of all the ballots counted after Election Day, the split is virtually even: 50.08% yes, 49.92% no, with the “yes” side gaining only 5,162 votes among 3.6 million counted. 

Newsom’s strategy isn’t without risk. While the campaign will likely focus on counties with a strong progressive bent for their curing efforts, their efforts could still add more No on 1 votes since a healthy number of Democrats voted against the measure (if they hadn’t, it wouldn’t be such a nail-biter). But, without this measure it will be a lot harder for Newsom to keep funneling money to Kaiser and Anthem/Blue Cross, and to the building trades unions who keep his campaign war chest flush, so he’s got to do what he can.

At this point, the No on 1 campaign is the only group organizing the curing of non-Democrat votes and they are severely underfunded. Click here to find out more about how you can help, and click here if you’re a Californian who voted by mail and want to ensure that your vote-by-mail ballot was counted.

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