The passage of Proposition 14 in the June 2010 Primary Election set into place a significant change in how we elect our representatives in Congress, the state Senate and Assembly.

Under Proposition 14, all candidates in each congressional district and state legislative district will appear on the same ballot. Voters, regardless of their own personal political party preference, will be able to vote for any candidate on the ballot, with the top two vote getters – regardless of party – facing each other in a November General Election runoff.  (Presidential candidates and candidates for party central committees do not come under the top two system.)

When the candidates files for office – which for this year’s June Primary Election closes on Friday, March 19 – the candidates will then make the decision as to which political party they wish to be identified with on the Primary ballot: Democratic, Republican, or one of the qualified third parties, such as Libertarian or Green.

But for the first time, the candidates will have a third option: declaring that they have “no party preference.”

This is a significant change. In the past, a candidate who wanted to run as an “independents” could not appear on the Primary ballot. To be placed on the November General Election ballot along with the major party candidates, they had to first obtain thousands of signatures of registered voters, a difficult and expensive process that was rarely attempted.

It appears that several candidates of note are choosing the “no party preference” (NPP) option in key June Primary races this year, including former GOP Asm. Anthony Adams, running in an open Inland Empire congressional district (CD8), and Chad Condit, son of former Democratic Rep. Gary Condit, running in a Central Valley congressional district that GOP incumbent Jeff Denham is seeking reelection.

But the NPP candidate that will get the closest attention is Ventura County Supervisor Linda Parks, who is running for Congress in an open district (CD26) where GOP state Sen. Tony Strickland and Democratic Asm. Julia Brownley are running (three other Democrats are also expected to be on the ballot).

Parks is a moderate Republican who has long feuded with the area’s hard-core conservative activists. In her Nov. 2010 race for reelection to the Board of Supervisors, Park’s opponent was former Asm. Audra Strickland, wife of Tony. Though both were registered Republicans, the state GOP got involved, donating $50,000 to the Audra Strickland campaign. Parks, however, won, 61% – 39%.

Statewide, independent voters – which the Secretary of State now labels as No Party Preference – comprise 21 percent of the electorate, just nine percent behind the Republican statewide registration of 30%.

How well Parks performs in the June Primary may well determine if state voters, in sufficient numbers, are ready to cast a vote for an individual without a political party label.

If she does well, along with continued increase in NPP registration and the continued decrease in GOP registration, the NPP label may evolve into being the serious “third party” alternative so many voters have been clamoring for.