Top-Two Open Primaries: A Gateway to New Solutions in Sacramento

Gary Toebben
President & CEO of the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce

The approval rating for the state Legislature is hovering in single-digits. Voter confidence is at a historic low. And 80 percent of voters believe that California is on the wrong track. Partisan legislative solutions have created paralysis in Sacramento. That is why the Los Angeles Area Chamber of Commerce is supporting Proposition 14 to create a new, non-partisan primary in which the top two vote-getters, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the general election.

A recent statewide USC College/Los Angeles Times poll confirmed that 20 percent of all voters choose not to affiliate with a political party and their ranks are the fastest-growing segment of California’s electorate. That reality is one of the reasons why California should encourage all of its registered voters to participate in open primary elections by passing Proposition 14 on the June 8 statewide ballot.

A closed primary system combined with an incumbent-controlled redistricting process and term limits that beg for reform has created a wobbly and broken three-legged political stool that fails to represent a broad cross-section of state voters who consider themselves “centrists.”

In 2001, the Legislature carved up State Senate and Assembly districts so that each seat was absolutely secure for either the Democratic or the Republican Party. That meant the real election would take place during the party primary election. Since it’s the party faithful that usually show up for closed primaries, candidates must run to the conservative or the liberal base of their party in order to win the nomination. Then, in the general election, the candidate from the party that has the clear registration advantage in the district cruises to victory with only token opposition.

Proposition 14 is a historic opportunity to open up the electoral process to more than 3 million decline-to state voters in California and millions of other disillusioned voters. If passed, all voters can vote in one primary election for congressional, statewide and legislative races. Candidates of all parties will be listed on a single ballot. The two candidates with the most votes will face off in the general election.

For voters, it means the opportunity to choose our favorite candidate regardless of their party affiliation or ours. For candidates, it means they must campaign to the entire electorate in their district rather than to a small group of committed party faithful.

Proposition 14 makes sense and it is one more step toward making California’s political system work for all the voters in our state.

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