In an attempt to blunt the upcoming top-two open primary’s ability to limit political party control over elections in California, the state Assembly is trying to change the way a candidate’s political party appears on the ballot. Proposition 14, passed by the voters in 2010, changed the primary system to consolidate all of the candidates onto one ballot, with the top two vote getters advancing to the general election. Candidates are only required to list their party preference, allowing Independents to run with the ballot designation “no party preference.” AB 1413 aims to undermine the reforms by changing “party preference” to “party affiliation,” interjecting political party influence back into open primaries.
While this change appears to be innocuous, it destroys several crucial reforms enacted by Proposition 14. Candidates who want to run as an Independent would (under AB 1413) have the ballot designation “Preference: withheld by candidate,” making them appear untrustworthy to voters. Furthermore, AB 1413 removes the requirement that voter registration cards inform voters of their right to vote for any candidate, regardless of political party, in clear 12 point font. Some smaller changes reflect an almost desperate attempt to inject political parties back into the primary system, by simply adding the word “partisan” before every “primary election” in the election code.
AB 1413 is by no means an attempt to simply update California’s election code. It is a clear attempt by political parties to undermine one of the most important electoral reforms in the past 25 years and maintain the political parties’ stranglehold on elections in California.