Sacramento was witness to a rarified event on May 11th.
to at least one reporter, she had never seen a press conference where
each of California’s political parties stood together – literally and
figuratively – and so it was at the "No on Prop 14" press conference.
The Republican Party, the Democrat Party, the Green Party, the Peace
& Freedom Party, the American Independent Party and the Libertarian
Party all came to together in opposition to Prop 14. Here are the Top
3 facts and the fantasies that came out of the press conference.
Fantasy #1: It is only the major parties that are opposed to Prop 14 according to Prop 14’s proponents.
6 of California’s recognized parties are firmly against Prop 14. The
3rd parties made it clear at the press conference that it’s a matter of
life and death for them because the Top 2 Primary system likely will
result, over time, in them losing their legally recognized status in
Fantasy #2: Prop 14 will produce more reasonable, moderate legislators according to Prop 14’s proponents.
Fact: Prop 14 systems help incumbents at the expense of challengers. In Washington, under a newly installed Prop 14 system, in the primary,
only one incumbent out of 139 state level candidates lost (because he
had ethical problems)- a lower percentage than under California’s
current system for the same year.
In Louisiana’s Prop 14 system, over
35 years of primaries, only one Congressional incumbent was ever
defeated for re-election (except that in 1992, when redistricting
caused two districts to have incumbents running against each other).
In other words, Prop 14 is the ultimate incumbent protection act and
won’t deliver as promised.
Fantasy #3: Prop 14 will result in greater voter participation according to Prop 14’s proponents.
Fact: In Washington, the percentage of primary voters actually dropped
after Prop 14 was instituted – probably for lack of choices. Indeed
the Prop 14 system in Washington State resulted in 3rd party candidates
dropping from 45-12 at the primary stage, and, for the first time since
Washington became a state in 1889, Washington voters saw no minor party
or independent candidates on the November 2008 ballot for any
congressional or any statewide office.
California, Prop 14 will result in nearly 30% of all district races in
November, according to Center for Governmental studies, being between candidates of the same party.
More often than not – they will be just Democrats. Common sense tells
you that if voters cannot vote for a candidate from their own party,
over time, they will either vote less, not vote at all or move (the
latter phenomenon has been occurring for center right voters moving
east out of the LA Basin and SF/Bay Area for years). Worse still, Prop
14, and its accompanying Senate Bill, would eliminate all write-in
candidates. In other words, in the long run, a lack of choices under
Prop 14 will discourage voters just as it does in gerrymandered
districts and just as it did in Washington.
Also, our 3rd partys represent nearly 5% of the voters. Keep
in mind that If a couple hundred voters are turned away at the polls by
mistake or voter intimidation, the whole nation is up in arms – under
Prop 14 – well over 800,000 voters will lose their party in California.
the argument for fair redistricting has always been "politicians
shouldn’t choose their voters, voters should choose their politicians."
14, it came out that politicians want a system where they choose a
certain type of candidate instead of voters choosing candidates. In
other words, if you are for fair redistricting, it is totally
inconsistent for you to be for Prop 14.
party bosses will have an even bigger role under Prop 14 in pushing
primary candidates to ensure that their favored candidates are known to
primary voters. Further,
the parties will seek to prevent too many of their candidates from
getting in a race. Too Many could throw a race to the other side if
they limit their primary candidates to just 2. For instance, the
Democrats have 6 candidates for attorney general this year. Under Prop
14, the Republicans could run just two and they would be the only
candidates on the ballot in November.
Rather than let that happen, the
major parties will seek to cap the number of candidates running for
office. So, returning to Washington, two Republicans who had declared
for the 18th legislative district have already dropped out to avoid
splitting up the Republican primary vote and allowing 2 Democrats to be
first and second in the primary. All those dynamics combined will
reduce voter participation not increase it.
Perhaps most interesting about the press conference was
listening to the uniform opposition of the 3rd parties to allowing
independents to vote in their primaries.
Each made it rather plain
that their party members are sincere in their beliefs and they do not
want their brand to be diluted, if not hijacked, by voters not
dedicated to their principles.
most clear is that there are no empirical facts that substantiate the
claims of Prop 14 proponents that it will make a difference. To
the contrary, Washington and Louisiana make it clear that the Top 2
system does not live up to its billing. So who in their Right (or Left
of center) mind would completely replace our voting system, with
another system, with no evidence that the new system actually works?
California’s 6 parties certainly don’t want that and neither should any
Vote No on Prop 14.