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California Legislators to Introduce Revolutionary New Presidential Primary Reform

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Created: 09 June, 2016
Updated: 21 November, 2022
2 min read

SACRAMENTO, CALIF. – Assemblymembers Adam Gray (D-Merced), Kristin Olsen (R-Riverbank), and the Independent Voter Project jointly announce the introduction of a new state constitutional amendment,  ACA 13, that would create a single nonpartisan presidential ballot so that all California voters have an opportunity to cast a ballot for the candidate of their choice, regardless of their political affiliation, in taxpayer-funded presidential primaries.

"When voters fill out their ballot they expect to be able to vote for their candidate of choice, regardless of political party. While voters have that right in every other state and federal election, their choices are artificially limited when voting for President of the United States. My legislation fixes that problem, providing voters the right to vote for whichever candidate they prefer," Assemblymember Gray said.

He added, "If political parties want to write the rules then they should pay for the primary elections themselves instead of asking taxpayers to foot the bill."

The amendment follows a resolution, ACR 145, which was proposed in March as a way to remedy the anticipated voter confusion during this election cycle. The resolution would have provided a non-binding “public ballot” option for voters who could not otherwise vote for the candidate of their choice.

Over 18,000 California voters signed a petition in support of ACR 145. Yet, the resolution died in the Assembly Elections Committee earlier this year.

This new Constitutional amendment would solve a number of significant issues related to voting rights and election administration with a straightforward and simple solution:

  1. Instead of separate ballots with different rules for each party, the state would issue just one ballot and list all the candidates;
  2. Every voter gets to vote for the candidate of their choice, regardless of party affiliation;
  3. Independent candidates can participate for the first time; and
  4. Political parties get to choose whether to count the votes of non-members.

The Independent Voter Project provided legal research and assistance to legislators and the legislative analyst in drafting the amendment.

“After a presidential election year that has demonstrated the real negative consequences to the public discourse and to individual voting rights that a privatized and exclusive primary election process encourages, we hope California legislators make history as being the first state in the country to implement a taxpayer-funded presidential primary election that truly serves voters,” said S. Chad Peace, attorney for the Independent Voter Project.

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Over the last two years, IVP has led a coalition of nonpartisan organizations and 7 individual plaintiffs in a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of New Jersey’s closed primary system, which allows only Republican and Democratic party voters to participate, despite the state’s 48% independent voter registration. As court precedent stands today, a voter must join one of the two qualified political parties in that state as a condition of gaining the right to vote during the primary election.

IVP has expressed their intent to challenge this legal requirement in other states as part of a long-term strategy to protect the rights of every individual voter, regardless of his or her party affiliation.

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