Governor applauds open primary measure

June 9, 2010 6:46:39 PM PDT
Proposition 14, the open primary measure, has passed by a healthy margin of eight percentage points, but it is expected to be challenged in court. Still, the Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger is celebrating and thinks opening primaries and redrawing the districts could eliminate dysfunction in Sacramento.

Political victories are few and far between for Schwarzenegger these days, but the passage of Prop 14 is a big one because it radically changes the way Californians nominate candidates. Instead of the top candidate from each party moving on to the general election, only the top two, regardless of party, advance. The move is supposed to help elect more moderate candidates and ease gridlock in Sacramento.

"You will see an extraordinary change in the direction California will be going and the kind of decisions that will be made here," says Schwarzenegger.

"We don't blame the voters, but they were fooled," says Cres Vellucci from StopTopTwo.org.

StopTopTwo.org is readying a lawsuit to challenge Prop 14's constitutionality. Smaller political parties say they are being marginalized.

"People say that you don't have a chance anyway, but no one knows and that's why they play the game. In sports, you play the game for a reason because anything can happen," says Vellucci.

Open primaries are largely untested and it is unclear whether it will, in fact, give more moderate politicians a chance.

In glancing at the results of more than 100 state races in Tuesday's primary, only four had candidates from the same party, who could have moved on, pitting Democrat against Democrat in each case.

"You're going to be asking not only third party people, but members of the Republican Party to vote for one of two Democrats and that seems very unfair," says Vellucci.

But Prop 14 was modeled after Washington state's open primary law, which has passed constitutional muster.

"This law specifically refers to the decision by the Supreme Court and I think it's going to be difficult to overturn," says Prof. Floyd Feeney, JD, from the U.C. Davis School of Law.

Adopted at their last convention, California's Republican Party now has the ability to bypass open primaries and move to a caucus system, which means a small committee can nominate someone instead of voters.

If the courts rule against them, Prop 14 opponents might write their own ballot initiative to change the open primary law.


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