The Independent Voter Project (IVP), authors of California’s top-two nonpartisan primary, filed a proposed amendment to the San Diego City Charter to remove the rule allowing a candidate to be elected if they receive over 50% of the vote in a primary election. IVP is requesting this be placed by the City Council on the November general election ballot.
Titled, “Right to Vote in the General Election Act,” the City Charter change would allow the top-two primary finishers to advance to the general election, regardless of the first place finisher’s vote total.
IVP’s core belief is that democracy works best when the most people participate. It is on that core belief that IVP has led efforts nationwide to improve the democratic process and in doing so, realized it needn’t look further than its own backyard, the city of San Diego, for a democracy-destroying and establishment-protecting election law.
Under San Diego’s current system, the mayor, city attorney, and council members face the voters in a primary election and if a candidate receives 50%+1 or more of the vote, they are declared elected. IVP sees a number of issues of concern, first and foremost that of voter participation.
While turnout amongst the city's voting population more than doubles between the primary and general elections, in the cases of minority groups and young voters, the difference is between three and five times as high! Then there is the issue of dialogue, of voter interaction with candidates and learning what they stand for.
While the primary receives less attention from the media, the political parties are running full speed with “member communications,” generally aimed at high propensity, partisan voters. This results in a situation where those partisans with a low turnout history, along with independent voters, receive little or no communication from candidates. The low participation cycle is thus perpetuated.
Since a primary election implies that a general election is to follow, it is misleading to suggest to voters that they will have a chance to vote in November when they don't. In fact, in the past four years, only 3 out of 11 elections in San Diego made it to the November general.
“This rule and how it contributes to voter disenfranchisement is why more and more people think the politicians don’t actually represent them,” said IVP Co-Chair Jeff Marston.
“If these representatives never had to face the entire diverse electorate then they don't actually represent voters' views. How about we don’t wrap up our elections in June and instead have a more robust dialogue about the important issues facing our community when the most people are paying attention--in the November general election.” - Jeff Marston, IVP Co-Chair
In line with the same belief that democracy functions best when the most people participate, IVP has signed on to a ballot amendment submitted at the same time by Alliance San Diego that would require ballot measures to be placed on the general election ballot rather than the primary.
The city council will take up the proposed amendments shortly to decide whether or not to place them on this November's ballot.
Photo Credit: Sam Hodgson / Voice of San Diego