Voters OK open primaries, reject public financing of political campaignsBy Samantha Young, AP
Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Voters OK open primaries, deny public $ for races
LOS ANGELES — Blaming political parties for California’s dysfunction, voters have replaced their partisan primary, but there’s no guarantee it will change government.
The passage of Proposition 14 gives the nation’s most populous state an open primary where voters can cast ballots for any candidate.
“Californians hate their state’s politics and they are looking for measures to change it,” said Jack Pitney, a political science professor at Claremont McKenna College.
But it’s doubtful Proposition 14 will be the panacea to political stalemate in Sacramento, Pitney added.
Democrats will likely continue representing liberal regions of the state, with Republicans elected in the fewer Republican areas.
One of five measures on the ballot, Proposition 14 was backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has long argued that centrist candidates rarely win primaries dominated by party activists.
He praised voters for “bringing real accountability to government and putting the people back in charge of the politicians.”
Despite their willingness to reform primaries, voters rejected Proposition 15, a measure to experiment with public funding of political campaigns.
Also Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly adopted Proposition 13, a measure that would exempt earthquake-safety improvements from property taxes.
Other ballot measures that were too close to call were proposals to impose voter oversight of public power and authorize insurance companies to charge higher rates to drivers who have not always carried car insurance.
Republican and Democratic parties complained that Proposition 14 would give well-funded special interests the greatest sway over the election process, arguing that candidates would be beholden to big-money donors, not voters.
Third parties said they feared their candidates would be shut out of general elections because minor candidates typically draw fewer votes.
Until now, California voters have been limited in most primary elections to casting ballots for candidates of only the political party they are registered with. Decline-to-state voters are the only ones who can pick a party ballot of their choice.
But by the 2012 primaries, a voter in the nation’s most populous state will be able to cast a ballot for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation. However, presidential candidates would still compete in a party primary.
Under the new system, two candidates of the same party could face off in a general election in state and federal races.
Thomas Garner, 65, said he voted for an open primary because he can’t see a difference between Republicans and Democrats.
“They fight like cats and dogs, but in the end they’re all the same. The system is broken,” said Garner, an attorney from San Diego.
Proposition 14 is patterned after a law in Washington state that has been in effect since 2008. That law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, although some provisions are still in litigation.
Louisiana also has a similar open contest for its general election and sends the top two vote-getters to a runoff.
Voters were divided on two initiatives put on the ballot by two companies eager to expand their business.
Proposition 16, funded by Pacific Gas & Electric, would amend the California Constitution to require local governments to get two-thirds voter approval before they could use tax dollars to start a power agency.
Proposition 17, was put on the ballot by Mercury Insurance in a bid to overturn a state law that prohibits insurance companies from considering a driver’s insurance history to set rates. It also would allow loyalty discounts to follow customers if they switch insurance companies.
“That’s surprising to me, they are too close to call with the immense amount of money spent on each side,” said Bob Stern, president of the Los Angeles-based Center for Governmental Studies. “You have to give the voters some credit for seeing through it.”
Tags: California, Campaigns, Events, General Elections, Government Regulations, Industry Regulation, Los Angeles, North America, Ownership Changes, Primary Elections, United States