California’s Proposition 14: Open Primaries, Open Vote

California’s Proposition 14: Open Primaries, Open Vote


Heard about this? Well, you will.

Basically, open primaries are where the top two vote getters move on to the general, with the hopeful net result being that Dems and Repubs wouldn’t have to appeal to the more extreme elements of their party to get to the big show.

Here’s more…

So, no more party primaries. And that has folks on both sides up in arms.

Republicans think it would result in general elections where you have Democrat vs Democrat instead of Republicans vs Democrats.

Others are worried that it would mean that whoever spends the most money in the primaries will get the most votes and proceed to the general.

Still others think that this would actually crowd out 3rd parties.

Here’s what the Center for Governmental Studies found in their report

The Center for Government Studies has issued this 102-page report on California’s Proposition 14, the “top-two” ballot measure on the June 8, 2010 ballot. The study, by Molly Milligan, studies whether Proposition 14 would create more moderate California politicians. The study suggests that the measure would tend to create more moderates in the State Senate.

The study also finds that campaign spending would increase, because many candidates who now have a completely safe primary process would need to spend enough money to win twice before the entire electorate. The study also says, on page 17, in footnote 11, that in the Massachusetts special U.S. Senate election of January 2010, if Massachusetts had used top-two, Scott Brown would not have qualified for the second round. In the real world, Brown won the election.

Finally, the study concludes that there would be a good share of legislative races, and some U.S. House races, in which the November election would be between two Democrats. However, the study does not believe there would be November elections between two Republicans.

So what do you think? A good idea?

The vote is in June.

  • kranky kritter

    Conventionally, “open primary” has meant that folks who are not party members can participate. So for example here in MA we’re said to have open primaries because independent (or “unenrolled” in the MA vernacular) voters can vote in either of the 2 party primaries. Many other states use this system and call their primaries “open primaries.”

    That contrasts with a state that has “closed” primaries, in which you must join one party or the other by a deadline if you want to vote in that party’s primary. If you are not a member of either party, you don’t get to vote until the general election.

    So THAT is what “open primary”means. Leave it to egocentric California to use a term that is already being used for something else. So what if everyone else gets confused, I guess.

  • kranky kritter

    Oh yeah. Forgot to mention. I think this prospective change screams “unintended consequences.”

    But I’m fine with California being the guinea pigs in the state lab trying this out. They can elect their congressfolk however they choose, and if they don’t like the results, then the only folks they’ve screwed are themselves. Hard to argue with that. All the other states get to find out whether this is a good idea, and if it turns out to be a bad idea, the other 49 states get to find out for free. That’s a great deal.

  • jaygade

    I like the idea of a “top two” nominating primary over the current system we have.

    Once upon a time in this country, the parties made their nominations regardless of public input. I don’t know if the state ran any primaries or not, but the nominations were generally made in the proverbial “smoke-filled back rooms” of the party machines. Corruption was alleged and during the progressive era of the early 20th, the state stepped in.

    I believe that my home state of Oregon was one of the first to do so.

    So now we have state-sanctioned and state-subsidized party elections for primaries. The problem is that you can only nominate candidates from your own party in a primary (nominating) election, or waste your vote on a write-in.

    While the original intent of the primary reform was to reduce party secrecy and corruption, the actual result is what we have today: a rigid state-supported two-party system with a nearly perpetual campaign season.

    I don’t know if a “top two” primary will necessarily fix these problems, but I think that it will at least be a step in the right direction.

  • gail k lightfoot

    CA tried an Open Primary but the courts shot it down after one election. Under current election code, any independetn [Decline to State in CA] can request and vote the Democrat or Republican party ballot in the primary. The party tells the Sec of State to allow this year by year, election by election. In 2008, the Republicans closed their Presidential Primary while the Democrtas left it open to independents.

    The current proposal is not being called an Open Primary. It is called the Top Two Primary. It opens the primary across all candidates of all parties sending only the top two vote getter on to the Nov ballot.

    At present no third party candidate is likel to be in the top two. Under the existing election code those parites remain ballot qualifed becasue they garner 2% of the vote in Nov. They will lost ballot status under this new arrangement. Plus no indpendent can qualify at all since they file after the primary and will not be able to be listed in Nov at all.

  • Edie Z

    The possibility of having two “Top Two” candidates from the same party is not a good idea. Choice of who represents us is what an election is about. I prefer to have a true choice. I am a California voter. Prop 14 is not a good idea as primaries are a replacement for “back room” party selection of candidates. That only the members of a party can vote in that party’s primary means that each party chooses their own candidates. What Prop. 14 does is to have a “no party” system. Right now we all have a choice. I want to keep that choice and so say NO to Prop 14.

  • Edie Z

    Addendum Prop 14 Calif June 2010 Prop. 14 throws the baby out with the bath water. It is about a free-for-all system of choosing rather than an all included system. I prefer all included. Voting is not about “independents versus political parties”. Various parties vote in primaries for their candidates while Independents remain free to voice their points of view or watch and wait. Independents are a deciding factor in elections. Independents have much power. I am for keeping that power. I am still for a NO on Prop. 14 in Calif. 2010