Washington (CNN)Polls suggest California voters are poised to defeat an effort to recall the state’s Democratic governor, Gavin Newsom.
The polls could be wrong or change fast. At present, though, their findings are entirely unremarkable. California has nearly twice as many registered Democrats as registered Republicans. Newsom was elected by almost 24 percentage points in 2018. With one notable exception, in 2003, every previous attempt to recall a California governor has failed.But this is the era of the Big Lie. Influenced by former President Donald Trump’s serial lying about the 2020 election he lost, many Republican voters are now suspicious, for no good reason, about the integrity of American elections in general. And prominent Republicans know how to rile up the crowd they created.With Tuesday’s Election Day fast approaching, Trump and other right-wing figures, including top Newsom replacement candidate Larry Elder, have started to lay the groundwork to baselessly dismiss a potential Newsom victory as a product of Democratic cheating.Read MoreThe rhetoric from Trump and Elder mirrors what happened in the weeks leading up to Election Day 2020, when Trump and his allies relentlessly pushed the lie that Democrats could not possibly beat him in an election that wasn’t “rigged.” And it benefits from years of additional dishonesty, by Trump and others, portraying California as a cesspool of mass illegal voting.In a Newsmax television interview last Tuesday, Trump called the California recall “probably rigged.” Trump escalated his dishonesty in a written statement on Monday, saying: “Does anybody really believe the California Recall Election isn’t rigged? 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 Scam!”Elder’s campaign website now features a link to a website that makes baseless and vague assertions of fraud in the recall and urges residents to sign a petition “demanding a special session of the California legislature to investigate and ameliorate the twisted results of this 2021 Recall Election of Governor Gavin Newsom.” Again, because Election Day hadn’t arrived yet, there were not yet any results at all at the time Elder’s campaign began promoting this petition, let alone “twisted” results. Elder, prompted by a Fox News host, said Monday that he is “worried about fraud,” and he promoted the “election integrity project” featured on his website. And in a Monday interview with Jacob Soboroff, an NBC News and MSNBC correspondent, Elder would not commit to accepting the result of the election, saying instead that “we all ought to be looking at election integrity.”Elder made similar remarks last week. At a campaign event last Wednesday, Elder said, “We’ve heard a lot of things that have been suspicious so far,” declared that “they’re gonna cheat, we know that,” and promised to file lawsuits. Earlier in the day, he told reporters, “I believe that there might very well be shenanigans, as it were in the 2020 election.” (Elder did say both times that so many voters are angry at the situation under Newsom that the recall will succeed anyway.)Baseless claims from othersTrump and Elder are not alone. In a Fox News appearance last Tuesday, right-wing commentator Tomi Lahren proclaimed that “the only thing that will save Gavin Newsom is voter fraud. So, as they say, ‘stay woke.’ Pay attention to the voter fraud going on in California.”Reporters for the Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have encountered everyday California voters expressing concerns about mass fraud. And you can easily find such talk on California talk radio. On one Southern California morning show last Wednesday, co-host Grant Stinchfield, who is also a Newsmax television host, casually said, “They’re gonna cheat to win. The mail-in ballot scheme is rigged.”In the Newsmax interview last week, Trump cited two facts as evidence for his assertion that the recall was “probably rigged.” Neither of them is actual evidence.One: The fact that every active registered California voter is being sent a mail-in ballot. There is no evidence of widespread fraud involving mail-in ballots, or any other ballots, in the 2020 election.Two: The existence of a secure system that allows California voters, such as people with disabilities, to mark their votes at home using their own computer technology, print them out, and mail them in to have them transferred to a normal ballot.This is, as usual, nonsense. Voters who want to use this print-at-home system must get approval from county elections officials, must still have their signatures verified after they send in their votes, and are not allowed to cast more than one ballot. In addition, the print-at-home system is used by a tiny percentage of voters — according to the office of California’s Secretary of State, just 24,248 of nearly 17.8 million voters in the 2020 general election — a paltry 0.14%.This story has been updated with additional examples of Republicans promoting baseless claims of fraud in the recall election.