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Free Citizen

This writer espouses individual liberty, free markets, and limited government.

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Location: Jackson, Mississippi, United States

Saturday, July 03, 2010

The Hankster on Proposition 14

My friend Nancy Hanks commented on my post from yesterday about California's passage of Proposition 14, a measure for a "top two open primary" for state and congressional elections. A former Arkansan who now lives in New York City, Nancy is a strong advocate for independent voters; she's also a local official in the Independence Party. She's part of the campaign to put a proposal for nonpartisan elections ("open primaries") on New York City's November 2010 ballot. Nancy acknowledges that nonpartisan elections would put her party out of business, since the final choice in the "open primary" is almost always one Democrat and one Republican, two Democrats, OR two Republicans.

Nancy says, "The OTHER selling point [for Proposition 14] was that 3.5 million independents (decline-to-state voters) will now be able to vote in the decisive first round of voting in California. Californians tried to implement open primaries in the past, and more than 2 million voted in favor of the referendum in a primary election."

For state and congressional offices, California independents already had their choice of either the Democratic or the Republican primary. That's a greater choice than was enjoyed by any party registrant, who was restricted to voting in his or her own party's primary.

I wouldn't call the first round of the "top two open primary" decisive, since its only purpose is to winnow the field to two candidates, both of whom may be from the same party (the fact that there is always a second round casts constitutional doubt on the "top two" in California and Washington state).

Why should the voters be limited to just two choices in that final round-- which is truly decisive?

In 1998 and 2000, California used the blanket primary, in which all candidates of all parties were listed on a single ballot; the top vote-getter from each party advanced to the general election. The U. S. Supreme Court in 2000 struck down the state-mandated blanket primary on the ground that it violated the political parties' associational rights (California Democratic Party v. Jones).

As long ago as 1915, 58.2 percent of California voters rejected a measure for a "top two open primary." Another such proposal, Proposition 62, was defeated in 2004, as it lost in 51 of the state's 58 counties.

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