California | Proposition 14: Do Away With Political Primaries

by Bill Golden aka

A good idea! … California will offer voters the chance to radically change how leadership gets elected by eliminating political primaries.

Passage of Proposition 14 would establish a general primary where all voters vote for their favorite, without regard to political party.

Under Proposition 14, the top two vote recipients would run against each in the general election.

This could result in:

  • Democrat vs Democrat
  • Republican vs Republican
  • Democrat vs Republican
  • Independent vs …

This could also open the way for third parties to be more successful.

One line of thought in support of Proposition 14 is that our current system encourages the fringe of both Left and Right — political primaries tend to focus on the organizational and rhetorical capabilities of emotional and hot button issues.

An open primary where candidates must appeal to the entire electorate should produce candidates more willing to talk straighter sooner and without regard to pandering to the political extremes.

This is a good idea and gets my vote of approval. I encourage others to support similar approaches across the USA.



Specifically, it would provide for a “voter-nominated primary election” for each state elective office and congressional office in California. Voters could vote in the primary election for any candidate for a congressional or state elective office without regard to the political party affiliations of either the candidate or the voter. Candidates could choose whether or not to have their political party affiliation displayed on the ballot.

The proposition also prohibits political parties from nominating candidates in a primary, although political parties would be allowed to endorse, support or oppose candidates. Elections for presidential candidates, and for members of political party committees and party central steering committees would not fall under the “top two” system.

Californians defeated Proposition 62 in 2004, a similar measure, by 54-46%. State of Washington voters approved a very similar measure, Initiative 872, in 2004, while Oregon voters rejected Measure 65, also a similar measure, in 2008.

The main argument supporters make in favor of Proposition 14 is that it might cause voters to elect more moderate members of the California State Legislature. Opponents make two main arguments. They say that that in states where a similar system is in use, it has not resulted in the election of more moderate politicians, and that if the Proposition 14 is approved, it will result in the destruction of California’s minor and independent political parties.


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2 responses to “California | Proposition 14: Do Away With Political Primaries

  1. California already tried a primary like this in 1998 and 2000, the blanket primary. It didn’t change anything. The only legislative session in which all legislators had been elected in the blanket primary was the 2001-2002 session. The budget was 61 days late in 2002 and wasn’t really balanced, and was 25 days late in 2001.

    All of California’s special legislators elections since 1967 have been conducted in a blanket primary, and the legislators elected in special elections are just as partisan as all the others. Both of California’s two John Birch Society members of Congress, John Rousselet and John Schmitz, were elected in a blanket primary.

  2. Proposition 14th is now part of the California Constitution, having passed on June 8th.

    From the L.A. Times of June 9th, 2010:

    “Proposition 14 passes, bringing open primaries to California”

    “Under the new measure, only the top two vote-getters in a primary election — regardless of their political party — will advance to a November runoff. Currently, the top vote-getter in each party advances to the fall campaign.”

    “The changes will not affect presidential contests.”

    “Supporters of the law say it will lead to the election of more moderate legislators. Opponents say the change will make campaigns more expensive and decimate smaller political parties.”

    “California voters passed a similar measure in 1996, only to have it overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court. Voters reaffirmed their support for closed, partisan primaries in 2004.”

    Read the L.A. Times article on Proposition 14’s passage.

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