Prop 14 could create open primary

May 23, 2010 6:56:47 PM PDT
Californians will decide on June 8 whether to fundamentally change how candidates are chosen during elections. Proposition 14 would create an open primary. The top two vote-getters of any party would advance to a general election. That means two Democrats or two Republicans could face off in a general election.

Sacramento rarely approves a budget on time. Lt. Governor Abel Maldonado, R- Santa Maria, partly blames the gridlock on the closed primary system where he says the extreme candidates of each major party are nominated with the eventual winner taking their extreme views to the legislature.

"My building is broken here that I work in is broken. There's dysfunction, and there's chaos, and people can't come together for what's good for California," says Maldonado.

For the 2009 budget, the moderate Republican, then a senator, demanded and got Proposition 14 on the ballot for his yes vote that ended the stalemate.

The Open Primary measure would advance the top two vote-getters to the November general election. It could result in two candidates from the same party vying for the job, leaving little chance for smaller, less-funded parties to win.

"Whether it's the Tea Party or Independents saying, 'We don't like the choices that we have.' Well, this is just going to be more of the same," says Cres Vellucci, from the Green Party California.

The idea behind open or top-two primaries is to get more moderate candidates into office willing to compromise.

"People who are thinking that you're suddenly going to transform California from a highly partisan place to a much more moderate place as a result of voting for this, basically they're smoking something," says ABC7 political analyst Bruce Cain.

Washington State held its first open primary in 2008. Out of 125 legislative races, eight had candidates from the same party who advanced to the general election. The Secretary of State there, a Republican, says the trend is leaning towards electing more moderate politicians.

The non-partisan Center for Governmental Studies actually studied past legislative races and what would have happened had the open primary been in place? The results were inclusive.

"We did find a slight moderating effect, and I think it was enough to say that perhaps change will actually create a moderate legislature, but I wouldn't say Prop 14 is a panacea," says Molly Milligan, from the Center for Governmental Studies.

Supporters say the open primary measure isn't meant to fix Sacramento on its own.

"Prop 14 is one of a package of reforms that we really need to change Sacramento and make Sacramento work for the voters," says Jeannine English, from the Yes on Prop 14 campaign.

"It doesn't push people to the middle. It allows extremists to get through the process," says Dave Low, from the No on Prop 14 campaign.

Voters will decide the fates of open primary on June 8 -- which itself is a primary.


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