Add another failure to the political horror show that is California’s top-two voting system:
Top two doesn’t’ allow you to pick the top two.
Nope, you only get to pick one candidate to advance in a top two system. That’s wrong in any circumstance – voters should get to pick as many candidates as advance in any election.
It’s particularly crazy in the context of this June’s first-round top-two election for the U.S. Senate.
County elections officials and the news media are on high alert for voter confusion caused by the fact that 34 candidates are all on the ballot – since top two eliminated primaries (despite the fact that the state still calls the first round a primary—but that’s another story.
This slate of 34 candidates is being treated as some kind of weird moment. In fact, it’s very much part of top two’s intentional design. Putting candidates of all the different parties on one ballot is central to the reform. And the long list of candidates isn’t new. There were 24 candidates on the ballot the last time U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein ran for re-election.
The voter confusion issue involves the difficulty of fitting that many candidates onto one page of the ballot. It can’t be done in many counties, which means that candidates from the list will be on different pages. The worry is that too many voters will thus vote for one candidate on each page – or two candidates for the U.S. Senate. That will invalidate their votes.
Of course, two candidates is the number of people who we should be voting for in a top-two election. Why not tweak the law to permit just that?
Not a chance – it makes too much sense. California’s good government types will defend this “reformed” system no matter what. So California is stuck with top two, a system in which even when voters do the right thing, it’s wrong.