SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) — Whether the post-pandemic new normal will include Gov. Gavin Newsom is going to be decided Tuesday as millions of Californians cast votes in a recall election over his policies and leadership.

Nearly 8 million mail-in ballots already have been returned out of 22 million sent to registered voters. On Tuesday, millions of others will cast their ballots in voting booths.

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Santa Clara County Registrar Evelyn Mendez told KPIX 5 that over 450,000 local residents had already cast their vote even before the polls opened.

“We are expecting an influx of a lot of voters to come in today to vote in person,” she said as she prepared to open the doors at a polling place.

At his final campaign stop in San Francisco, Newsom again urged his supporters to cast their ballots.

“Polls don’t vote, people vote,” Newsom said. “That’s particularly true in an off year, off month, election and recall election… They designed this to catch us while we’re sleeping, they designed this to get us off-guard.”

Monday night, voters in Walnut Creek drove to the Civic Center to drop off their ballots. Their biggest gripe was the cost of the recall that’s expect to be more than $250 million.

“I think it’s a waste of money honestly,” said Walnut Creek resident Kathy Waters. “I know people don’t love Gavin and I’m not his biggest fan but I think it’s a waste of money and we should wait until the next election.”

“With everything that needs to be funded, education, health, homelessness, we’re wasting all this money,” added Thompson.

Others though feel the recall could be worth every penny.

Walnut Creek resident Frankie Holmes says, “We’re excited. We need a change.”

Holmes has had enough of Governor Newsom’s COVID policies.

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“You can walk up and down this block and see why we need a change,” said Holmes. “It’s closed businesses. It’s not good. I like to see your smile if I could so that’s my feeling.”

As for polling, there’s been an obvious shift over the last several weeks.

The latest poll released by the LA Times and IGS UC Berkeley poll, shows more than 60% of likely voters oppose the recall, compared to nearly 39% in support.

That’s a much larger differential than just weeks ago.

“From decades of research, the closer you get to an election, the more reliable the polls,” said Lauren Wright of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs.

The shift in polling favoring Newsom can be partly tied to a clearer picture of the leading GOP candidate.

“Part of the reason Democrats and left-leaning independents have come back to supporting Gavin Newsom is they see the alternative as someone in Larry Elder who would take the state in a very different direction, especially around the pandemic,” said UC San Diego political science professor Thad Kousser.

Another reason could be the injection of highly polarizing national issues like reproductive rights and the new Texas abortion law.

“The extent to which democrats are fundraising and raising energy over these types of things, and they can attach it to Larry Elder, for instance, Newsom can use that energy even if it’s not California specific energy,” said Wright.

Meanwhile, the difference in early return ballots between registered Democrats and Republicans is nearly 2.2 million according to Political Data Inc. About 4.1 million registered Democrats have returned ballots compared to 1.9 million by Republicans.

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“Right now it would take a major shift, almost a reversal of the trends we’ve seen so far in polls and return ballots for the recall and Larry Elder to pull off an upset,” said Kousser.