End the open primary experiment

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EDITORIAL

This week's primary election on June 3 occurred after Guardian press time for this issue, but there's one conclusion that we can draw about it without even knowing the results: This is a pretty shabby form of democracy that few voters cared about. California's experiment in open primaries is a disaster, and it's time for a new model.

Turnout for this election was expected to hit historic lows, and for good reason: There was nothing of any real significance on this ballot, except perhaps for Proposition B on the San Francisco ballot, to require voter approval for height increases on waterfront development projects.

Even the hotly contested Assembly District 17 race between David Campos and David Chiu was simply a practice run for a rematch in November, thanks to an open primary system that sends the top two primary finishers, regardless of party, to the general election.

The system was approved by voters at Proposition 14 in 2010, placed on the ballot by then-Assemblymember Abel Maldonado as part of a deal with then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to break a budget stalemate caused by their fellow Republicans. Such horse-trading should have been a bad sign that this change wouldn't live up to its idealistic hopes.

Its backers promised that it would favor more moderate candidates and reduce negative campaigning, but that hasn't happened. Indeed, at press time it appeared Gov. Jerry Brown would be facing the most radically right-winger in the race, Tim Donnelly, in November.

What it has instead done is reduce the primary election to a boring and meaningless waste of time and money, turning off voters and creating low-turnout elections that are more prone to manipulation by wealthy special interests.

We at the Guardian are all for greater experimentation in our electoral models. We were big supporters of the ranked-choice voting system that is working well in San Francisco and Oakland. We support even more aggressive models for publicly financing campaigns and reducing the role on private money in electoral politics. Hell, we also support a proportional representation system and other wholesale transformations of our political system.

But while we'd love to see even more electoral experimentation, we also need to recognize when experiments are failing, as California's open primary system now is. It's time to try something new.

 

Comments

Are you saying that we should ignore the voters and do what you want instead?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 03, 2014 @ 2:05 pm

If the voters had been told the truth about prop 14 they would never have approved it. They were told it would do all sorts of things that have turned out to be at best wishful thinking or worse outright lies. Lets get real reform, RCV and Proportional Representation on the ballot and let them reconsider their hasty action.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 6:44 am

1) The voters were lied to

2) The election was purchased

3) Voter fraud (with never any proof, of course)

4) The turnout was low

5) The turnout was high

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 6:57 am

The problem is that voters are always lied to and are always swayed by money.

RCV is a start but isn't enough.

We need a system that completely takes voters out of the electoral process.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 7:03 am

Voters cannot be trusted to vote the right way.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 7:15 am

>"Indeed, at press time it appeared Gov. Jerry Brown would be facing the most radically right-winger in the race, Tim Donnelly, in November."

Oopsie! Hate it when that happens just when you are trying to be so authoritative.

>"ranked-choice voting system that is working well in San Francisco and Oakland"

Define "well".

Particularly in terms of Oakland.

Here in San Francisco the first competitive RCV mayoral election had one of the lowest turnouts ever and the duly elected D10 supervisor wasn't the 1st, 2nd or 3rd choice on 75% of the ballots.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 6:47 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 7:15 am

The Bay Guardian was posting about how Oakland has a terrible mayor and how the next mayor should be a progressive occupy type.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 7:33 am

Your comment does not contain a logical point--again--though it does neatly sum-up the S.F. Chronicle's editorial position on RCV.

Quan won in 2010 because Oaklanders preferred her to Don Perata.

Don Perata's backers are responsible for Quan being mayor. They should have picked someone more acceptable to oppose her.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 7:43 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 1:08 pm

This is likely the result of strategic, as opposed to principled, voting which is another of the shortcomings of Top Two. Many Democrat voters, knowing that Jerry Brown is sure thing among Democrats, didn't vote for him but rather the most obnoxious Republican who would turn off the most voters in November. This is why we need a single November election using RCV with instant runoff with an easy path to ballot qualification for that election. Let the parties hold a primary at their expense if they want one, or nominate in convention if they choose. All ballot qualified parties get to place one candidate on the General Election ballot. Also we need to reduce the requirements for independents and non-qualified party candidates to also get on in order to insure the broadest choice in November,

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 12:38 pm

Until then, shut up and put up.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 1:09 pm

the subterfuge of making an attack on the democratic system which looks like a progressive reform.

This is--and will continue to be--a reccuring theme.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 7:50 am

Are you saying that doesn't matter?

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 1:09 pm

"Indeed, at press time it appeared Gov. Jerry Brown would be facing the most radically right-winger in the race, Tim Donnelly, in November."

Remarkably, the SFBG is wrong again - Brown will be facing Kashkari.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 9:01 am

is never the troll's strong suit; just sometimes it's more obvious than others.

Posted by lillipublicans on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 9:34 am
Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 1:10 pm

People can't strategic vote. Meaning in a democrat primary Campos may well win, thus facing a loser republican later.

In top two a broader base of people can vote for Chui, who represents more people.

The progressive complaint here is that they want less democracy.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 9:27 am

might just have been a way for Campos to prevail.

But now he is toast, losing even before the GOP voters switch to Chiu in November.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 1:11 pm

NO primaries.

Proportional Representation for all legislative body elections -- using candidate rank order lists to move votes for losers to winners - to represent ALL voters -- with both majority rule and minority representation.

Nonpartisan Approval Voting for executive / judicial offices.

-- pending advanced head to head math using Number Votes ( 1, 2, etc.) and YES/NO votes.

Posted by Demo Rep on Jun. 04, 2014 @ 8:25 pm

Italy has had over 60 governments since WW2. Many of them have only lasted a few months.

Posted by Guest on Jun. 05, 2014 @ 10:10 am

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