Californians will head to the polls earlier for primary elections. Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill Wednesday that moves all primary elections, including presidential primaries, from June to March.
The bill, titled the “Prime Time Primary Act,” originally only affected presidential primaries, but was later amended to include congressional and legislative primaries as well. State officials claim the change will increase the influence state voters have in presidential elections.
According to Richard Winger at Ballot Access News, the only other time a midterm primary was held before June was in 2002.
“The 2002 California primary had the lowest turnout of any California primary in history, up until that point. Only 34.6% of the registered voters cast a ballot,” writes Winger.
Former State Senator Steve Peace said in a comment for IVN:
“Who is it that thinks that requiring politicians to spend more time campaigning and less time doing their job is a good idea?”
“If the March primary is to make Califoria more relevant then it’s necessary to make sure independents have an equal opportunity to voice their choice of the potential nominees,” said Dan Howle, co-chair of the Independent Voter Project.
“This can easily be accomplished without imposing on the parties rights and method of choosing their nominees. Presidential primaries don’t elect any candidates nor do they guarantee a candidate will appear on the state’s ballot in November. California counties can provide ballots for each party holding their own primary and an “independent ballot” that includes every recognized candidate as determined by the secretary of state.”
Howle added, “Parties can choose to count the independent votes in awarding delegates to their conventions or not count them. California will only become completely relevant and influential if the “independent votes” are cast and tallied.”
The Independent Voter Project sponsored a resolution to add the “public ballot” option to the 2016 primary. You can read more about it here.