And now something completely
different: an “open” primary, in more ways than one!
Sen. Abel Maldonado is to thank for the possibility of the open primary,
an amendment to the state constitution known as SCA 4 or “The Top
Two Candidates Open Primary Act.” The deal-sweetener of February 19’s
budget, this act would provide a much-needed form of transparency, and
may give innovative independents and conservatives their first real
chance at meaningful and possibly majority-drive statewide leadership
in many years.
If passed by voters, this act will abolish the practice
of locked-in party politics, forcing political parties to give up the
practice of formal nominations, as the voters would be the ultimate
deciders of which two candidates would go forward. Neither
of the final two candidates would even have to share their political
The California Constitution
currently “provides that all judicial, school, county, and city offices
are nonpartisan offices, and a political party or party central committee
is prohibited from endorsing, supporting, or opposing a candidate for
such an office.” Funny thing is, that doesn’t appear to be very
well heeded in the present day, does it?
If this act is approved, voters may no longer have to kowtow to the extremes
of our two major political parties.
In the open primary, a number of
factors change. First, voters will not have to vote solely for who
is running in their designated party of choice. Ideally, this would
provide a selection of more moderate candidates. In theory, Republicans,
Democrats and everyone in between would be selecting the top two candidates,
who could both belong to the same political party, if each garnered
the two amount of votes.
Why would this be so beneficial
In a state generally locked
into Democratic hands come presidential election time, it can sometimes
seem like the very active state Democratic Party has only to answer
to its own members. However, if two Democrats were to come away with
the two highest vote tallies after a gubernatorial primary, at least
one of these candidates will be expected to move toward the center,
to win those conservative and moderate votes. Ditto for Republicans,
who, if they sought to win a majority, would need to move to the center
to satisfy the greatest number of voters. All too often, moderates and
conservatives in California bemoan that their voices simply aren’t
heard at the polls, especially every four years, with the Electoral
With a system like the open primary, more moderates,
and even fiscal conservatives, could get a fair shot at statewide leadership,
without being punished for their political principles.
The actual vote for the open
primary will not take place until June of 2010. In the meantime, voters
can consider: are they better off with rigid party labels of yesterday,
or will Californians once again vote to innovate, rewarding
good ideas, regardless of their party origins?