Mar 20, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Newsom's homelessness measure narrowly passes in California

Photo of Gavin Newsom resting his hand on his chin

California Gov. Gavin Newsom championed the ballot measure. Photo: Chip Somodevilla via Getty Images

Voters in California narrowly passed the closely watched Proposition 1 to invest in new housing and treatment facilities for homeless people, AP projected Wednesday.

Why it matters: The razor-thin margin reflects divisions over how to address the state's chronic homelessness crisis — as well as concerns about forced mental health treatment.

  • The election outcome hung in limbo for over two weeks after the primaries, with the "yes" votes leading Wednesday evening by less than 30,000 votes, according to the secretary of state's office.

What they're saying: Gov. Gavin Newsom, who championed the ballot measure, took to social media shortly after it passed, calling it the "biggest change" California has seen in decades.

  • "This is a huge victory for doing things radically different when it comes to tackling homelessness," he posted on X, formerly Twitter.

Catch up quick: Proposition 1 initially appeared set to become law as votes were counted in the days immediately following Super Tuesday.

Newsom's federal political action committee put out a call for volunteers to mobilize in what Politico deemed a "remarkable ploy." The governor also postponed his State of the State address amid the uncertainty.

  • "We don't know if reviving rejected ballots will change the outcome of this election," Paul Simmons, director of Californians Against Prop. 1, said in a written statement Monday. "But if the governor thinks it might, we for damn sure aren't going to let him have the field to himself."

Context: Proposition 1 will let the state borrow over $6.3 billion to finance mental health treatment beds and supportive housing for homeless residents.

  • It received support from local officials — including Mayor London Breed — but faced opposition from a coalition of mental health workers and disability advocates who say it will fund facilities that involuntarily hold patients and divert money from local prevention programs.

What to watch: California law does not mandate automatic recounts in election contests, but a recount can still happen if action is taken within five days of the 31st day after an election.

  • If the official results show that the gap between "yes" and "no" votes on a ballot measure is less than 1,000 votes or 0.00015 of the number of all votes cast for the initiative, Newsom can order a state-funded manual recount.
  • Any registered California voter can also request a recount of votes.

What's next: Results for all statewide elections must be certified on April 12; if a recount shows a different outcome, election officials in the affected counties must recertify their results to the California secretary of state.

Go deeper: California leads U.S. in percentage of unsheltered homelessness

Go deeper