“It’s Up to You” by Frances Talbott-White

Prop 14 – Open Primary with a ‘Top Two’ Twist —

Did you think you’d ever see the day when our state’s top two political parties and two ‘third’ parties would agree on their opposition to a statewide ballot measure — a ballot measure actually crafted as a COMPROMISE between the top two parties in our state legislature? That day has come, and Prop 14 is the ballot measure in question.

Prop 14 has two very simple parts. I’d like to talk about them separately, and then discuss an application.

First, Prop 14 would create an OPEN Primary Election. This means ANY registered voter would be able to vote for candidates of ANY party, starting with the 2012 Primary. Two exceptions pertain: the Presidential Primary, and elections for political party committees, would remain closed.

Second, Prop 14 would allow only the TOP TWO vote-getting candidates for any partisan office to appear on the General Election (November) ballot, regardless of party.

So here’s the application. Let’s say you’re voting for Governor in the June 8, 2010 Primary Election:

* Under current election law, you may be registered in any one of SIX different parties, and you have from ONE to EIGHT gubernatorial candidates on your ballot. The top voter-getter in EACH party would appear on everyone’s November General Election ballot (that’s SIX candidates in all).
* If Prop 14 were in effect, you’d have TWENTY-THREE gubernatorial candidates on your ballot. The top two vote-getters would appear on everyone’s November General Election ballot. That could be ONE each from any TWO parties, or TWO from any ONE party.

Under Prop 14, then, you’d have MORE choices in June and FEWER choices in November. This concept evidently works well in the State of Washington and has survived a challenge in the Supreme Court of the United States.

Open primaries have been tried before in California, but Prop 14 is so different from Prop 198 (passed in 1996 and ruled unconstitutional in 2000) that I don’t think history will help you much in deciding this one. Nevertheless, I urge you to visit SmartVoter.org — http://smartvoter.org/2010/06/08/ca/state/prop/14/ — and follow the excellent links you’ll find there.

Prop 14 is one of two measures on your June 8 ballot dealing with changes in election law. If both pass, some issues will have to be worked out in the courts. Meanwhile, however, each ballot measure must be considered on its own merits.

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Frances Talbott-White has lived in Culver City since 1975. She holds various positions at state, county, and local levels of the League of Women Voters (LWV) but writes for Culver City Crossroads as an independent citizen. Nothing Frances says in this column should be construed as an official statement of LWV or a reflection of LWV policy.

www.culvercitysymphony.org

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