Could 2018 Spell the End of Top Two?

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)

Perhaps the best California political news of the summer got drowned out by the Trump Circus and gubernatorial campaign speculation:

The top two’s days may be numbered.

A Rancho Cucamonga-based organization with backing from multiple political parties has field an initiative to repeal the 2010 legislative constitutional amendment that eliminated primaries (in all but name) and installed a top two system.

I’ve written extensively in this space about top two’s many failures. It never delivered on any of its promises of producing more moderate legislators, or more conversation between parties. It promotes extremes and discourages participation.

But California’s goo-goo reformers are heavily invested in it. So when top two doesn’t work, they’ve pleaded for time and patience.

The filing of a repeal measure, which is now seeking financial backing, suggests that the top two’s time may be running out.

The initiative text, by the way is a marvel. At a time when initiatives typically run to thousands of words, this initiative is a flat repeal—it actually makes California’s long and complicated state constitution shorter!

For that alone, this measure is good news.

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