How Prop 14 Election Overhaul Could Change California

Farewell, party primaries

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California voters have approved Proposition 14, which as of 2011 will implement a largely unprecedented new election system for the state. Prop 14 abolishes the separate party primaries, replacing them with a single "open" primary in which all potential candidates compete. The two top vote-getters in that primary will go on to compete in the general election. Here's what the new system means for California and state politics.

  • Why Political Parties Hate This Politics Daily's Tom Diemer explains, "The idea is to diffuse the extremes in both parties that tend to influence primaries and push candidates farther to the right or left of the political spectrum. But there is little data to show whether that would be the result. 'There's just not much evidence that it adjusts the ideology of elected officials that much,' Public Policy Institute of California Fellow Eric McGhee told the Washington Post. Party regulars on both sides opposed to the ballot issue and were dismayed by the vote."
  • Victory for Independent Voters The Moderate Voice's Nancy Hanks writes, "Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said that this will take power away from the parties and put it in the hands of the people, which is what we wanted to do." Hanks cites the statement from an independent voters group: "As a result, the 3.4 million Decline to State independent voters will have equal access to our political process. At the rate voters are choosing to become independents here in California, we expect to be over the four million mark by our next election cycle."
  • Defeat for Third Parties By winnowing the final ballot to only two candidates, which are more likely to come from the well-funded Democratic and Republican parties, many third-party supporters believe Proposition 14 could cause, as Reason's Brian Doherty put it, "the death of third parties in California." Former Green Party presidential nominee Ralph Nader and Libertarian Christina Tobin both condemned Proposition 14 as the work of corporate interests wishing to push out third parties.
  • Intra-Party Fights Could Get Nasty A possible outcome of the new system is that general elections will be waged between two members of the same party. NBC News' Carrie Dann predicts, "If the result of an open primary contest is a general election between two Democrats or two Republicans, added Wertheimer, voters could be in for a messy few months. 'In any race where you're going to have two candidates from the same party, what you're going to have a very, very nasty race,' he said. 'With very little difference in the substance of their views, they have to find ways to draw lines between each other.'"
  • Start of National Trend? The New York Times' Jesse McKinley thinks so. "California was again poised to capture the mood of the country, just as it did in 1978 with Proposition 13, which distilled widespread antitax sentiment into a cap on property taxes. This time, it is the anger of the electorate that Californians have bottled, experts said, even if they are not totally sure what they are doing."
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.