Why Should I Have to Pay For Your Primaries?

Joe Mathews
Connecting California Columnist and Editor, Zócalo Public Square, Fellow at the Center for Social Cohesion at Arizona State University and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (UC Press, 2010)

News item: Some in the California Republican Party don’t want to let California voters registered as Decline to State (full disclosure: I’m proudly one of them) vote in the GOP primary.

Fine. But why then should I, as a taxpayer, have to pay for your primary?

The same is true of other partisan primaries. Registered voters that are not members of a party are the fastest-growing segment of the electorate – 20 percent and rising fast. In an era of super-tight budgets, our taxes, by paying for primaries, are subsidizing the parties.

What do we get out of it? Hyper-partisan legislators that dominate the legislature. Budget gridlock. The total failure to deal with urgent issues such as prisons and water. And who do the 20 percent of Californians who are DTSers have to represent them in Sacramento? Not a single legislator, unless you count Fresno Assemblyman Juan Arambula, who was elected as a Democrat.

Talk about taxation without representation.

The Democrats, at least, let us DTSers take Democratic ballots in state elections. If the Republicans want to bar DTSers from their state primaries, that’s fine by me. But Republicans should, on principle, pay the costs of the primary themselves.

A better solution? Some would say that next June’s open primary offers some advantages (Wake me if that measure passed on a statewide ballot that’s likely to attract more than the usual number of partisans).

It’s time for a bigger change that would give the same rights to all voters, regardless of party. Non-partisan state elections. This was a goal of the same Republicans and Progressives who brought us the initiative, referendum, and recall. California already has non-partisan elections in its cities and counties, most of which seem to be governed much more effectively than the state is.

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