A few election cycles ago, the voters of California passed Proposition 14, which changed the primary elections statewide to a total open primary, regardless of party, and the top two go on the general election.
What Prop. 14 did was change how state and federal legislative districts were drawn and made a total open primary, regardless of party, in which the top two finishers go on to the general election. The first two also applies to federal senate elections It also includes elections for all the state constitutional offices starting with governor.
Add that to Proposition 11, passed by California voters in 2008, which took the redistricting of said lines from above and put it in the hands of an "independent" commission, and the so-called good government folks had their orgasm.
See, some folks are worried that people are just not voting in elections. Save for the presidential elections, voter turnout in California does not really break records. Except going the other way. So the same folks figured, lets see if taking redistricting out of the hands of the legislature. Get a group of non-partisan types and regular folks together and figure it out. And of course there is the terrible partisanship that goes on in Sacramento and Washington. Why let's get the parties out of the way and just have an open primary. Sure, we will put on the ballot what party each candidate belongs to. But it does not matter because it will be the top two. Period.
Without partisanship in the redrawing of lines and essentially the primaries, a slew of "moderates" would be nominated and win elections and harmony would reign in California.
I am now inserting the laugh track here.
According to this post over at HotAir.com, it appears that voters, those that even bother nowadays, are not all that happy with the current system we have in place.
But the biggest surprise is that in this past Sunday's Los Angeles Times, writer Mark Barabak wrote that Prop. 14 is not exactly working out as the proponents thought.
Shock of all shock!
Remember, all of this reform was to boost voter turnout because after all there would be this wave of middle-of-the-roaders and all would be well once again.
Let's take a look at the last primary election last June. As I noted in this post shortly after the primary election, a grand total of 18%, yes you read that right, 18% of voters bothered to cast ballots. And it did not vastly improve in the November general election as 31% bothered to vote in that election.
Folks, that is not exactly a positive for a process that was supposed to improve everything in voting.
In the HotAir link, the "independent" reapportionment commission was essentially hijacked by, you guessed it, Democrat activists. The Democrats in California had been the primary drawers of all district lines for decades. They were not going to let a pesky little "independent" commission get in the way. Hell, they openly violated the rules and had people, including a Democrat hack from Idaho and lives in Sacramento to testify before the commission. As the saying goes, read the whole thing.
The reality is that the Democrats worked the new system like a Stradivarius while the Republicans, as usual, looked and acted DUH.
So, strong Democrat districts, a Democrat incumbent governor that built a huge war chest and enjoys, mystically, high approval/popularity ratings and a Republican party still trying just to pay off bills from the 2010 campaign and having no serious candidate for governor and you get . . .low turnout and an even more who cares type of electorate.
In regards to the open primary of Prop. 14, the reality is that there are really more partisan districts. There are more general election races that are between two Democrats or two Republicans. Many districts at all levels, state assembly, state senate, congress and the state constitutional offices have no primary or general election,opponent. The whole point, supposedly, was to get more moderate candidates eventually elected and that the two big parties would work together. The reality is that in heavy Democrat or Republican districts, the other side would not support a candidate in the top two not in their party.
Say, what about third parties?
Another reality that I think is the main thrust of Prop. 14 was it completely shuts out the minor parties recognized in California except in the Presidential election.
The American Independent, Greens, Libertarians, Natural Law, Peace and Freedom, will almost never ever finish in the top two. Thus eventually they will shrivel up and die and the voters will be stuck with twiddle dee and twiddle dum.
One thing that has not happened but very well might is in a high-profile race such as governor or senate, the two general election candidates could be from the same party. It could very well happen in 2016 in the race to replace Sen. Barbara Ma'am Boxer. Already the Democrat state attorney general, Kamala Harris, has announced her candidacy. It is expected that the former Los Angeles mayor, Antonio Villar, aka Villaraigosa, will also run. Unless the Republicans can muster up a very, very credible candidate, that could be your two finalists for the general election.
Will more people really come out to vote for two candidates that are essentially the same but from different ethnic groups?
No, no and nope. Not. Gonna. Happen.
I had been against an open primary and am totally against this system. But I will concede that a semi-open primary would be a better alternative.
It was tried earlier and the Republicans did not open their primary to non-Republicans. It's time we did.
Let all political parties be represented and voters can go to the polls and vote in the party primary they choose. If Democrats want to vote in the GOP, fine. If Republicans want to vote in the Democrat primary, fine. If one wants to vote minor party, fine. And the winner in each primary goes to the general election. Thus minor parties are represented and the two big parties also will have more candidates and voter interest.
The "independent" commission in charge of drawing the lines must be willing to solicit information from all parties about the lines. They must be able to know what interest any person or group has regarding testifying before the commission. It must have multiples maps to vote on. It must weigh multiple factors including and especially legal factors. It must make the lines as least partisan as possible.
And one last thing.
All parties need to realize that if they want to have higher voter turnout, have compelling candidates. Candidates willing to go out of their comfort zones. Candidates willing to break free from the interests of their party. To say what they think and how they would govern.
I think that these are better ideas than the continuing reinventing the wheel.
When you lose the Los Angeles Times on election reform, you have to realize that so far, all reform has made it worse.