Saturday, June 5, 2010

Primarily Broken - 400 words on Proposition 14 in California

Proposition 14: The End of Democracy or the Beginning of a New Politics?
by Joshua M. Patton

California is often said to be where new ideas are field-tested in America and an initiative to reform elections will be the next idea put to the test in the statewide election on June 8, 2010. Dubbed “Proposition 14,” the measure seeks to reform the way primary elections are decided in that state. By taking the power to elect away from political party nominating committees and placing it directly in the hands of the voters, the system mimics those used to elect officials in Los Angeles and bears striking similarities to the non-partisan blanket primary system currently used in Louisiana. This ballot-initiative is not without controversy.

That the controversy and hyperbole comes from the political party establishments that would no longer nominate a candidate is not surprising. What is unexpected however is that it seems the only thing that can unite Republicans, Democrats, and even the Green parties is the threat of a reduction in their power. According to the Los Angeles Times, this coalition referred to Proposition 14 as “the end of Democracy in California.”

One of the problems with primary elections is that typically only the fringes and more extreme supporters of the parties even participate in the vote. This formula can possibly result in the unfortunate circumstance of a candidate winning the primary that would most likely lose a general election match-up. Under the current laws, the party bosses could disregard the will of the voters and nominate whomever they think has the best chance of winning the general election.

Proposition 14 would give the power of nomination directly to the voters. The two candidates that receive the highest number of votes would go on to the general election regardless of their political parties. Similarly, the voters themselves could vote for any candidate regardless of their stated party or lack thereof. There are of course measures in place for runoff elections in the event of a tie. Still the debate rages on as to whether or not this will diminish the effectiveness of third parties or if it will allow one party to gain a stranglehold on the state. By June 8, the voters will vote to maintain the status quo or they will seize control of their primary and general elections from the hands of dealmakers in smoke-free backrooms.

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