California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at a joint state and federal COVID-19 vaccination site set up on the campus of California State University of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021.

California Gov. Gavin Newsom speaks during a news conference at a joint state and federal COVID-19 vaccination site set up on the campus of California State University of Los Angeles in Los Angeles, Tuesday, Feb. 16, 2021. | AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

OAKLAND, Calif. — The campaign to recall California Gov. Gavin Newsom has had nearly 670,000 signatures validated with a month left to reach roughly 1.5 million, according to an official Friday update, but the total number of valid signatures submitted is likely larger.

It’s shaping up to be a tight finish for the drive to qualify only the second gubernatorial recall in California history. Longtime ballot experts say the campaign continues to have an impressive validation rate of signatures submitted, but that it could still come down to the wire based on Friday’s data release.

An update from the Secretary of State’s office shows 668,202 valid signatures to date, equal to a relatively high 84 percent validity rate of the 798,310 signatures reviewed by local elections offices through early February.

Officials still hadn’t processed an additional roughly 300,000 ballots, which at the reported validity rate would put organizers at around 900,000 total signatures — about 60 percent of the total needed.

Anne Dunsmore, who manages one of two groups spearheading the recall, said the report lagged behind the campaign’s actual rate of signature gathering. Dunsmore said proponents have submitted about 1.2 million signatures and collected around 1.7 million total.

“We’re doing great,” Dunsmore said. “We’re right on track.”

But campaign consultant Brandon Castillo, who is not affiliated with the recall, predicted the outcome could be tight. He said it will depend on how many signatures the campaign has banked beyond the 1.09 million that registrars have officially received, assuming their submission rate in the following month roughly matches the campaign’s raw total from early January through early February.

“I think it’s very close. I think it’s seriously possible they qualify. But only if they have that additional 400,000 to 500,000 signatures in hand,” Castillo said.

The last official update, in January, showed proponents had submitted around 410,000 valid signatures and had likely collected around 610,000 valid signatures total.

A growing consensus that the recall could well go before voters has attracted national attention and money, with the Republican National Committee channeling $250,000 to get the signature-gathering effort across the finish line. Republican contenders are lining up, and Democrats are unifying behind Newsom.

A halting mass vaccination effort and the continued closure of schools have fueled criticism of Newsom’s leadership.

The next official state status report is scheduled for March 18 — the day after the deadline for proponents to submit signatures. County election officials will then need submit results to the secretary of state’s office, which will announce if the recall has made the ballot.

If that happens, an election would likely occur in the fall. Voters would decide two questions: whether to keep Newsom in office, and who should replace him if the recall passes.

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