Voters get to cross party lines during primary balloting
When California and Mono County voters head to their respective polling places this June 5, they’ll be using a new ballot format.
In nonpartisan contests, such as those for county Board of Supervisor seats, voters won’t notice any difference … as in the past a candidate wins if he or she pulls in 50 percent plus one vote. No change there.
But, in partisan races, such as those for state legislature, and Congressional seats, voters will participate in what has been referred to as an “open primary.” Democrats can vote for Republicans and Republicans can vote for Democrats.
“On the ballot they’ll see what are now called voter-nominated offices … congressional offices, state, legislative offices,” said Deborah Seiler, the San Diego County Registrar of Voters in an interview with KPBS TV. “Where these used to be restricted to that voter’s political party, now they will be a combination of all the candidates running in that primary election, which will include Democrats and Republicans.”
Enacted by state voters in June 2010, Prop 14 provides for a “voter-nominated primary election” for each state elective office and congressional office. “Since anybody can vote for anybody, you might have to appeal more toward moderates, toward independents,” said Carl Luna, a professor at San Diego Mesa College, said in an interview with PBS. “So you get two Democrats who win in one district [such as the 52nd Congressional District, in which two Democrats are running] … they go to the general election and the Democrat that can get Independents and even moderate Republicans to vote for them has a better chance to win.”
Luna posited that in the closed primary system, voters elected “polarized candidates,” liberal or conservative, who can’t agree on much once they reach the legislature.
Under the new open primary system for partisan races, the top two candidates with the most votes go to the general election in November. That’s true even if one candidate has already secured more than 50 percent of the vote in the primary.
Strictly speaking, though, California’s new Proposition14 system isn’t exactly an “open primary.” “Open primary” has been defined in political science textbooks since 1907, and in US Supreme Court decisions starting in 1972, as a system in which each party has its own primary ballot and its own nominees, but on primary day any voter is free to choose any party’s primary ballot.
By contrast, California no longer has party nominees or party primary ballots (except for President), and is more officially referred to as a “top-two” system. On several websites and blogs, supporters suggest that a true “open primary” format would be far better because it would not limit choices in November general elections to just two. Proposition 14 wasn’t on the June 2010 ballot as an “open primary” because a state court ruled it doesn’t fit the formal definition.
Who’s living in YOUR district?
Some voters have questioned how recent state redistricting affects the rules governing where a candidate lives versus where he is running for certain seats. According to an analysis by the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, California redistricting is governed by Article XXI of the state constitution, modified significantly in 2008 by a ballot initiative that was in effect for the 2011 redistricting process. At the County level, supervisorial candidates are required to live in the district for which they are running. However, in state legislative races, that might not necessarily be the case. According to the analysis, Candidate residences “may not be considered, and districts may not be drawn to favor a candidate or party.”
In addition to local races, on Nov. 6 voters will vote for several federal and state offices, including the U.S. House of Representatives, and for one of the state’s two seats in the U.S. Senate. Democrat Dianne Feinstein, incumbent U.S. senator first elected in 1992, will defend her current seat.
Feinstein could face challenges from a raft of declared Republican candidates, such as Elizabeth Emken, former Autism Speaks VP and 2010 11th Congressional District candidate, U.S. Naval Officer Rogelio Gloria, perennial candidate Timothy Kalemkarian, Rabbi and 2010 State Senate candidate Nachum Shiffren, Tea Party activist Michael Stollaire and Dr. Orly Taitz, a dentist and 2010 GOP candidate for California Secretary of State.
There is also still a potential for a challenge from some notable names, such as Carly Fiorina, former Hewlett-Packard CEO and 2010 GOP U.S. Senate nominee, Congressman Darrell Issa, who has raised eyebrows as the Chair of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in the ongoing House investigation into “Operation Fast & Furious,” and Steve Poizner, former Insurance Commissioner and a 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate.
Not running: Congressman Devin Nunes (R-21st District), Michael Reagan, conservative radio host and son of former President Ronald Reagan, and former eBay CEO Meg Whitman, who ran for governor as a Republican in 2010. –KPBS/Ballotpedia