California Goes Nonpartisan
June 9th, 2010

As New York City’s Charter Revision commission mulls whether to propose nonpartisan elections here, California last night took a big step in that direction.

Some 54 percent of voters cast ballots in favor of Proposition 14, which would do away with partisan primaries. Instead all candidates would run in a single primary with the top two vote getters, regardless of party, winning the right to compete head to head in the general election.

Supporters, including Gov Arnold Schwarzenegger argued the new system would help end partisan gridlock and result in the election of more moderate people since candidates would no longer have to cater as much to their parties’ hard ideological base. Opponents said it would hurt smaller political parties and make elections even more expensive than they are today.

If nonpartisan elections come to pass in New York City it will almost certainly be due to the clout of Mayor Michael Bloomberg (though his bottomless checkbook did not keep New Yorkers from defeating a similar measure in 2003). In California it was the result of the state’s bizarre budget battles: Moderate Republican State Sen. (now Lt. Gov.) Abel Moldanado reportedly refused to cast a crucial vote in favor of the budget unless the parties agreed to put Pro 14 on the ballot.

California Secretary of State Debra Bowen said the law will almost certainly face legal challenges. Courts declared a similar measure unconstitutional after voters approved it in 1996. And then Californians voted for closed partisan primaries in 2004 – only to reverse themselves yesterday.

If the measures stands up, what then? “While Washington State and Louisiana have adopted forms of the ‘Jungle [or open] Primary’ without radical consequences, there is no real way of knowing what may happen if the most populous state in the Union so drastically alters its political process,” CBS commentator Jeff Greenfield wrote.

By on June 9, 2010, 2:16 pm
In category: City Hall,Electoral Politics,Governing | 1 Comment »

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One Response to “California Goes Nonpartisan”

  1. Larry Littlefield Says:
    June 10th, 2010 at 11:10 am

    “If the measures stands up, what then?”

    What will happen is there will be real legislative and congressional elections in one party districts. For example, in an overwhelmingly Democratic district, like those in New York City, there may be two Democrats running on Election Day, when everyone shows up. One backed by machines and interests, and one who is not.

    Actual elections will force elected officials to cater to someone other than self-interest groups.

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