The California Top Two Primaries Act ballot proposition is on the June 8, 2010 ballot in California as a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. If approved by voters, the proposal will require that candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters, with the top two vote-getters meeting in a runoff. The new system would take effect in the 2012 elections. Specifically, it would provide for a "voter-nominated primary election" for each state elective office and congressional office in California. Voters could vote in the primary election for any candidate for a congressional or state elective office without regard to the political party affiliations of either the candidate or the voter. Candidates could choose whether or not to have their political party affiliation displayed on the ballot.Independents have come out strongly in support of the measure, as it allows unaffiliated voters to participate in the primary selection process. Third party activists, on the other hand, argue against it because it ensures that there will only be two candidates on the ballot in the general election and thus restricts choice. In the third party and independent blogosphere, this split is most clear in the positions of Nancy Hanks, who supports the measure, and Richard Winger, who is against it. This week, The Hankster published guest pieces by authors representing both sides in the debate. In the first, Richard Winger argued that "independents are better off with more choices on the November ballot":
The United States desperately needs political leaders who are committed to new ideas for solving our problems, and who are more interested in advancing those new ideas than they are to just advancing their own personal political career. . . . In democratic countries all over the world, when a leader, or a group, is determined to persuade society that it's time for a particular change in social policy, the traditional way to do that is to form a political party committed to that idea. . . . Unfortunately, in the United States, the ability of people to organize into a new political party and take their case to the voters has been trampled upon. . . .In the second, Harry Kresky responded to Richard Winger's piece in an article entitled "Why Independents Support Open Primaries":
Proposition 14, the "top-two open primary", has already been tried in two states, Washington (in 2008) and Louisiana (used for Congress 1978-2006, and state office ever since 1975). We know what happens in that system. In Washington, in 2008, for the first time since Washington became a state, there were no independent or minor party candidates on the November ballot for Congress and statewide state office. In Louisiana, no minor party member has ever qualified for the second round. That is why independents, or independent-minded people, who have been elected to important office, such as Ron Paul, Lowell Weicker, Jesse Ventura, and John Anderson, are opposed to a system that leaves just two candidates on the November ballot. New parties, representing movements, can't get a foothold in a system that allows only two candidates on the November ballot.
I believe that it is very desirable that independents be allowed to vote in major party primaries. My opposition to Proposition 14 is not because I am opposed to letting independents vote in major party primaries.
Most of us share Richard’s desire for a politics in which new ideas take priority over political careers. The issue is how to achieve this. He thinks the answer is to protect the status of minor parties on the grounds that they drive new ideas and social change into the mainstream. But the role of third parties as incubators of political change is limited. . . . Americans don’t look to the third parties as instruments for reform, in no small part because they don’t like parties, major or minor . . . “Top-two” is an important step towards non-partisan governance. It does away with party primaries altogether. If the Proposition 14 initiative passes, all voters vote in a first round in which all candidates are listed on the ballot with their party preference next to their name, and the top two go on to the general election which is also open to all voters. . . .I'd be interested to hear any comments from readers on the west coast who may be following this debate in the local media.
A key issue for independents is full participation in every phase of the electoral process. Top-two is a way to achieve that. Under the current system in California, each party holds its own primary election, and only members of that party have a right to participate. That means that 3,466,855 registered voters in California are not guaranteed the right to participate because they have elected not to register into a political party. They can only vote when a party allows them in its primary. They are not guaranteed a say in who appears on the general election ballot. Passage of Proposition 14 will give all voters the right to participate in every phase of the electoral process.