Prop 14 would encourage change in California

Though legislation on marijuana has been the hot topic on campus in recent weeks, Trojans should be aware of another measure that will be voted on much sooner.

On June 8, Californians will vote on Proposition 14, known as the Top-Two Primaries Act, which, if passed, will change California’s present closed primary system to an open primary system that will allow all registered citizens the opportunity to vote, regardless of party affiliation.

Julia Vann | Daily Trojan

The proposal would create “a single ballot for primary elections for … congressional and state elective offices,” with the top two candidates from either party progressing to the general election.

The proposition, proposed by Sen. Abel Maldonado, seeks to rectify the wrongs of bipartisanship and its resultant policy gridlock and lack of forward momentum.

If anything, the proposal will redefine the political landscape of the state that is in need of some sort of change.

The proposition attempts to facilitate the election of more collaborative candidates.  By putting all candidates on the same ballot, they must all compete for the same constituents and so shift their own views toward the middle.

The statement in support of Proposition 14 in the Official Voter Information Guide claims, “Proposition 14 will help elect more practical office-holders who are more open to compromise … Non-partisan measures like Proposition 14 will push our elected officials to begin working together for the common good.”

The major and minor political parties are in adamant opposition to Proposition 14 because it will drastically alter their existing primary selection process and the way that each influences the election process in California.

Those in favor of the measure argue that the change will benefit independent party candidates: “Proposition 14 will give independent voters an equal voice in primary elections.” Those in opposition rebut: “Smaller political parties … will be forced off the ballot, further reducing choice.”

The minor party candidates will rarely — if ever — make it to a November runoff, and as such they will lose what little prominence or influence they now possess.

Major parties will face a different but equally significant challenge if the proposition passes. Whereas each of the major parties typically unite to support a single candidate prior to the November election, each now runs the risk of having two of their same candidates on the November ballot, or none at all.

Others have voiced different objections. As Rob Richie of The Huffington Post notes, “Prop. 14 does not even allow write-in candidates in the November runoff.”

Although true, there’s a valid reason: Let’s imagine that in one race, the Democrats have the top two vote-getters, so the Democratic party is split between the candidates in the November election. If the Republicans can organize well enough to get their write-in candidate on enough ballots, their candidate can win with only 34 percent of the vote. We now have either an official in government who was not selected by a majority or a subsequent runoff election to obtain a 50.1 percent or greater vote. Neither outcome is desirable.

Any time there is a proposed constitutional revision, the opponents tend to paint a picture of doom. But there is no significant risk to California.

Proposition 14 is modeled after a similar initiative in Washington state that has passed a constitutional challenge in the U.S. Supreme Court. Louisiana also has a similar primary system in place and neither Louisiana nor Washington has experienced any drastic political devastation as a result of such primary methods.

Bipartisanship and gridlock plague the government and hinder decisive action, but the ultimate question is: Will this proposal reduce either of these problems? The Public Policy Institute of California, a non-partisan organization, has published a comprehensive analysis of Proposition 14, which examines the hypothesized effects of the open primaries in California: “In short, [Proposition 14] would probably have a noticeable but modest effect on voting and representation in California. Crossover voting rates [voters that vote for a candidate of a party other than their own] could be high, but perhaps in only a handful of races. Moderates might benefit, but only slightly more often than under the current system.”

Should California pass such a measure? We can all agree that California is in drastic need of change. Change that encourages collaborative and effective government is absolutely necessary now.

Reid Roman is a freshman majoring in industrial and systems engineering.

3 replies
  1. Joe
    Joe says:

    The point of primary elections is to let each party choose their best candidate, and then run them against each other. So we can argue amongst ourselves without splitting the vote, then unite behind the winner. Without closed primaries, you often end up with the most popular party *losing* due to a split vote on their side.

    The idea of “open primaries” corrupts that system. Is it really fair to the Democrats that Republicans can vote in their primary, forcing them to run a candidate that doesn’t represent them? Is it fair to Republicans that Democrats can meddle in their primary? Usually open primaries are only proposed in a state where one party has a distinct majority, because they WANT to corrupt the process. It would be much easier for the Democrats to dominate California politics if they could stuff the primary ballots and force the Republicans to run terrible candidates. That’s exactly what they’ll do, if we let them get away with it.

  2. aloka naskar
    aloka naskar says:

    Reid, good article and thanks for bringing this prop to my notice. At the conclusion you noted “Change that encourages collaborative and effective government is absolutely necessary now”. However I agree with Richard’s comments, if this prop passes it will not encourage collaboration between parties but may actually preclude one party from participating at all. Additionally the minority parties will be left out altogether. In California this will give the Democrats carte blanche to pass anything they want. That, as we have seen with their policies and where it has led us, would be devastating to the state.

  3. Richard Winger
    Richard Winger says:

    In the 2008 presidential primaries, Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton each polled slightly over 17,000,000 votes nationwide. John McCain only polled 9,800,000 votes nationwide. So if the United States were using a “Top-two” system to choose the president, the only two candidates on the November ballot would have been Obama and Clinton, with no write-ins allowed. This would have shut out almost half the nation (the more conservative and Republican half) from any voice in the November election. Such an election would enjoy no legitimacy at all. No free country in the world would hold a presidential election and confine the choices to two members of the same party. The general election campaign season is when all points of view should be heard and all voters should have the freedom to have someone to vote for in the general election who matches their policy preferences.

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