Prop 14 Lawsuit: People-1, Politicians-0

President of AARP California and Co-Chair of Californians for an Open Primary

A scheme by legislative leaders to torpedo Prop 14, the open primary initiative on the June ballot was revealed this week in a Sacramento Superior Courtroom.

It’s no secret that political insiders are opposed to open primaries. They see the idea as a threat to their power and influence over what happens in the Capitol. That’s why it wasn’t surprising to see them ramp up their calculated attacks on the open primary as voters begin to become more aware of the idea.

What was surprising, however, was the blatant audacity of insiders who this week tried to engineer a last-minute, total rewrite of the title and summary of Proposition 14, one that included absurdly prejudicial language designed to deceive voters and kill the measure.

It turns out that the Legislative Counsel (whose job it is to defend the laws our elected leaders pass) was under orders from the Joint Rules Committee to stand down from their normal role of defending legislative actions and to cooperate with the California School Employees Union in bringing a court challenge to the ballot language. Equally alarming, they argued against allowing proponents of the measure to intervene in court to defend Proposition 14’s current wording.

At the best what happened was a waste of taxpayer time and money – at the worst it was a blatant abuse of power designed to manipulate voters.

Fortunately, Sacramento Superior Court Judge Allen Sumner saw through this scheme and ruled that Californians for an Open Primary can intervene to contest the Legislature’s scheme to mislead voters and derail this important reform measure.

On behalf of AARP’s more than 3 million California members, I applaud the judge for allowing not only AARP, but the Governor and Attorney General to intervene in defense of the statute that put Proposition 14 on the ballot, and for ensuring the debate over ballot language is conducted in an open and transparent process.

An open primary system will give every Californian equal access to the same ballot and will put us on track toward restoring the faith the people of California once had in their elected representatives. Those of us who support Prop 14 believe that in order to change the partisan, gridlocked culture in the Capitol, we have to change the conversation in Sacramento. Opening our primaries to all voters will encourage elected representatives to be accountable to their constituents. Californians will then have an opportunity to hear real debate about the issues that matter to them – not just a competition for which candidate can best appeal to his or her party’s narrow “base.”

Californians want to elect people who are beholden only to their constituents, not to a small sector of hyper-partisan political bosses.

Today, Judge Sumner will hear the lawsuit on its merits. We hope and believe he will see this lawsuit for what it is – an effort by those who want to protect the status-quo to circumvent the law and carry out an unprecedented and illegal power grab.

This is not the first and certainly won’t be the last time we’ll see an attempt to derail reform. But Californians are starting to see through these games. Californians want their elected officials to work on creating jobs and getting California’s economy back on track – not wasting taxpayer money concocting politically-motivated schemes.

On June 8th, Californians will send a message that says “enough is enough.”

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