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Did Newsom’s “no and go” strategy limit votes on question 2?

Never have two questions been so important to the future of California.

Will Gavin Newsom be recalled as governor? If so, who should succeed him?

While Newsom easily pushed back the recall and will serve its remaining 14 months, political analysts will be looking at the numbers, and in particular the percentage of voters who did not answer the second question. Partial results show that the second question garnered almost 4 million fewer votes than the first.

According to a UC Berkeley Institute of Governmental Studies poll co-sponsored by The Times and released on Friday, nearly a third of likely voters said they would agree to vote on the second question, a number that rose to 49% among the probable Democrats of the state. voters.

The term is called a “roll-off ballot,” and for Thad Kousser, professor of political science at UC San Diego, the decision to leave the second half of the ballot blank is “shocking.”

“It is not healthy for democracy,” he said, “because it leaves only a fraction of our electorate to vote in this incredibly large election.”

But he adds, as a strategy for Newsom “it’s great”.

By marginalizing the other 46 single-status candidates, Kousser said, Newsom’s campaign provided voters with a simple choice that puts the numbers in its favor and possibly eliminates confusion and deliberation that could have caused problems for the governor. .

The math was simple. Of 22 million voters in the state, Newsom needed 10.3 million Democrats and some 3 million independent voters to win, and while the math worked in his favor – Democrats outnumbered almost that Republicans in State 2 to 1 – the campaign was not initially.

Passionate supporters of the recall, waving placards and flooding social media, sent shockwaves through the Democratic Party, which feared Tory radio host Larry Elder would win if Democrats failed to show up.

To win, supporters of the recall were counting either on a low turnout or on a massive defection of Democrats who would say yes to the first question and therefore put the second into play.

To spoil this possibility, Newsom’s campaign actively promoted the poll. When Newsom voted in downtown Sacramento last Friday, he took a moment after to speak to reporters. Just vote no, he said.

“And answer question two?” “

“No interest,” he said, “just vote no. Just a simple no and let’s go.

It essentially offered voters a choice between “a Democrat you might not like and a Republican you might hate,” Kousser said.

In its effort to dissuade Democratic voters from choosing another Democrat, Newsom’s campaign returned to an era of a political machine where candidates were chosen behind closed doors in smoky rooms, Kousser said.

Gone is any discussion of the issues that preoccupy residents of the state – climate change, homelessness – in a decision to play with the system. “And any process that prompts and gives a leader the power to take away voters’ choices requires serious consideration of reform,” Kousser added.

As the dust settles on today’s vote, Californians will undoubtedly be wondering about the implications of this historic election which set two standards for its candidates, forcing the incumbent to win by majority, and to default, allowing an opponent to win by a simple plurality.

Times writer John Myers in Sacramento contributed to this report.