Progressive Policy Agenda Could Benefit with Advanced Primary Election

Joel Fox
Editor and Co-Publisher of Fox and Hounds Daily

While the focus on Sen. Ricardo Lara’s bill to move California’s presidential primary from June to an earlier date so as to increase the state’s influence in presidential contests, there is an overlooked aspect to the change that could also advance the progressive state issues cherished by the majority in the California legislature.

While moving up the presidential primary, SB 586 would also advance a consolidated statewide primary to the third Tuesday in March or to an earlier date on the calendar if the governor determines such a move would keep California’s presidential contest one of the earliest presidential primaries.

Besides the legislative and constitutional officers races involved in the statewide primary, legislative propositions and, importantly, constitutional amendments could appear on the primary ballot.

Recall a few years ago, the rules were changed to place all initiatives on the general election ballots in November. However, legislative acts referred to the voters could still appear on the primary ballot. That would still be the case if the primary is moved up.

In announcing the move to create an earlier presidential primary, Secretary of State Alex Padilla, predicted to Carla Marinucci of Politico that an early presidential primary is “going to be great for turnout.” In California, increased voter turnout tends to favor Democrats.

In a release issued about his bill, Sen. Lara noted, “California is leading the nation on clean air, criminal justice reform, and expanding healthcare for all, and moving up our presidential primary will ensure our state’s voters are heard in the national debate.”

It would also give the Democrats and their supermajority the opportunity to place measures on the ballot that push their agenda to a friendlier electorate. That includes constitutional amendments, which require a two-thirds vote. Democrats now control two-thirds of both houses of the legislature.

Changes to governance rules, altering past initiatives of which legislators don’t approve, or even amended tax laws all could end up on the primary ballot with a two-thirds vote. With a heavier turnout of a more sympathetic electorate expected, the chance of passing some of those measures becomes more plausible.

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