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Wednesday, June 29, 2022

Walters: Is California’s top-two primary system working?

Prior to 2012, California had a closed primary system in which registered voters from the two major parties separately chose candidates from their parties to face each other in the general election.

Critics said the system had a polarizing effect because candidates won their nominations by appealing to active elements, who were too liberal in the Democratic Party and too conservative in the Republican Party. The increasing number of registered independent voters in either party was discouraged from participating in primary elections, which affected the results of other issues, such as the ballot measure.

In a top-two system, called a “jungle primary” by its opponents, all candidates for an office are listed on the same ballot and the two top finishers, regardless of party, then contest the November general election. do duel.

This happened because in 2009, Democratic leaders in the state Senate desperately needed another vote to pass a controversial budget and turned to moderate Republican Sen. Abel Maldonado to provide it. However, Maldonado – with the support of the then government. Arnold Schwarzenegger – insisted that his vote hinged on keeping the top-two primary in front of voters.

The Democrats eventually agreed and Proposition 14, creating the top-two system, appeared in the June 2010 primary ballot with Maldonado and Schwarzenegger stating that it would allow liberals and pragmatists in both parties to hold legislative and congressional seats. Will provide better chances of winning. Leaders of every political party opposed the measure but voters passed it out of hand.

Has it worked as promised? Mostly, yes.

As Republicans became largely irrelevant in the legislature, business groups such as the California Chamber of Commerce nurtured business-friendly Democrats using the top-two system. Although Democrats have supremacy in both legislative houses, substantial factions of moderates have blunted efforts by progressive groups to implement their left-leaning agenda—single-payer health care being the most obvious example.

The system has its drawbacks, such as inviting mischievous tactics. For example, workers of one party sometimes secretly recruit to vote for several candidates in another party and help two candidates from the same party complete a 1–2 in the primary. This has happened a couple of times.

A variation of that trick employed by Democrats in recent years is encouraging opposition-party voters to favor the most conservative Republican candidate, making it easier for Democrats to win.

Gavin Newsom’s 2018 campaign for governor drew a lot of attention from Republican nominee John Cox, helping him finish second in the top-two primary, as Newsom is not facing Democrat Antonio Villaraigosa, the former Los Angeles mayor, in November. wanted.

The top-two system inadvertently allowed Republicans to shoot themselves in the foot this year, when six of them ran in State Senate District 4, which stretches through 13 mostly rural counties southeast of Sacramento and one GOP voter registration is plural.

With so much going on, he fragmented the GOP vote, thus allowing two Democrats, Tim Robertson and Mary Alvarado-Gil, to finish 1–2 and hand over the seat to another party.

“It’s a nightmare… a lot of people thought they would have a chance to win. So they jumped in, but they split the votes and unfortunately it can happen,” said Joseph Day, of Stanislaus County The Republican president told GV Wire.

Despite those and other similar top-two results, it remains a more democratic – with a small “D” – way of electing candidates by forcing them to appeal to a wider range of voters.

Dan Walters is a columnist for CalMatters.

World Nation News Desk
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