Prop. 14 Debate: Good Arguments on Both Sides


Calbuzz is of two minds about Proposition 14 on Tuesday’s ballot.

On the one hand, we think anything both major political parties are dead set against must be touching on something important. And we can see how it would be that if candidates had to appeal to voters of all stripes — not just Democrats and Republicans — it’s possible that more centrist, moderate, reasonable legislators might get elected who would be prepared to compromise in Sacramento to get something done, fercrineoutloud.

On the other hand, there’s a pretty sound argument that parties ought to be able to pick their own representatives and that taking away that right cuts parties off at the knees at a time when parties are bringing people into the political process who might otherwise have no clue for whom to vote. We’ve already approved a new, non-partisan system for creating legislative boundaries. Let’s give that a chance to work before trying to fix electoral outcomes by tinkering with the electoral system.

Here are a pair of arguments on Proposition 14, from the great political writer and author Lou Cannon and from Thomas G. Del Beccaro, vice chair of the California Republican Party.

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There are 10 comments for this post

  1. avatar david says:

    One of the strangest things about Prop 14 is that it would allow the parties to endorse, contribute to, and “informally nominate” candidates prior to the open primary — as long as the choice is made by some process other than a primary. Under 14, the parties are likely to “informally nominate” candidates in conventions, with the chosen candidates campaigning in the open primary as the officially endorsed candidates of their parties. This would reverse, to some extent, the progressive political reforms of the 1970s, which were about moving the control of party nominations away from the “smoke-filled rooms,” and more into the hands of the party’s registered voters.

  2. avatar Ernie Konnyu says:

    I am revolting. My YES recommendation on Prop. 14 is opposite from the party officials of ALL political parties including Republicans and Democrats.

    Here is my reasoning. For all partisan elected offices except for President, voters could cast a ballot for any candidate in the primary election regardless of party affiliation. Any candidate receiving a majority would win the office and save election expenses since they would not run in the general election. If no majority was achieved, the top two vote getters would compete in a runoff general election. So, two Democrats or two Republicans could end up facing off whether that office is the Governor, U.S. Senator down to Assembly Member. Candidates would not be forced to disclose their political party on the ballot itself. A Republican with good ability could win in Democratic San Francisco and a Democrat candidate with good ability could win in the Republican areas of Orange County. This is the Louisiana system that elected a Republican Senator, Congressmen and a Governor in a very Democratic state.

    Proponents contend it will end the Sacramento gridlock, create more competition, effectively eliminate all those useless and toothless minor parties and empower voters. Business groups such as the Chamber of Commerce support Prop 14 and every political party and most unions oppose it. This Republican eying our annually declining voter registration says Prop. 14 is perfect for heavily Democratic California. Vote YES on Prop. 14.

    • avatar david says:

      The text of Prop 14 does not say that a candidate who receives a majority in the primary is elected without holding a general election. It says that the top two vote-getters advance to the general election. Prop 14 is explicit that the purpose of the primary is to nominate candidates for the general election, not to provide a final choice in itself.

  3. avatar adrian_s says:

    Yes on prop 14. isn’t a sound argument by any means. Supporters may have a monopoly on voters’ heartstrings (see the sob story soliloquy Maldonado gave to Richard Winger during their Prop 14 debate on KQED), but they do not have anything in the way of hard evidence. They almost never use facts at all, and the only numbers they use in their defense are a) the number of the prop itself, and b) some year that Pat Brown served as governor and the state was a “model example” of good government.

    Those aren’t facts! That isn’t hard evidence at all! Ask yourselves why Prop. 14 supporters can’t create a fact-based argument. Anything they’d cite would be easily disproven, that’s why.

  4. avatar chrisfinnie says:

    I was actually for the open primary law Californians passed decades ago. I liked the idea of being able to vote in any party primary I wanted to. But I don’t like this one because I feel it limits my choice in the general election. What if the top 2 primary candidates were Republicans in a heavily Democratic area like mine? Or 2 Democrats wound up at the top of the ticket in a Republican region? Would voters be happy to have such limited choice? Would they be happy that no third-party candidate would ever make it to the top 2–eliminating any possibility of a protest vote or a true outsider challenge? I wouldn’t be.

    While the concept of more choice is one I endorse, I don’t see that here. In fact it gives more power to our 2 existing political parties. With the rising decline to state registration in the state, I don’t think that’s what most California voters want. I know I don’t. I’m voting NO!

  5. avatar Mark Paul says:

    You say that both Cannon and Del Baccaro have good arguments. But readers will notice that only Del Baccaro has evidence.

    The scholars who study primaries have found that abolishing party direct primaries in favor of a two-stage general election (and that’s what Prop 14 does) does little to change the ideology of those elected. But it does help incumbent politicians and increases the power of monied contributors in campaigns.

    Is that what we Californians really want? When are we going to give up the goo-goo fantasy that we can take the politics out of politics? Haven’t we hurt ourselves enough yet?

  6. avatar Moderate Democrat says:

    Eliminating the two-thirds requirement for a budget would be a better reform.

    The political parties definitely would have far less influence with a top-two runoff system, and quickly would be motivated for fair districting without the current biases. A top-two election system is good enough for a special election to replace a legislator so why not in a “primary” election too?

    • avatar Jack Dean says:

      You’re wrong about special elections. Currently, all candidates from all parties appear on the same ballot in the first round, but the top vote-getter from EACH PARTY advances to the run-off ballot. If Prop. 14 wins, odds are that you’ll never see a minor party candidate appear on the general election ballot again. And write-ins will no longer be allowed. So much for choice!

  7. avatar Pete Stahl says:

    “…parties ought to be able to pick their own representatives and … taking away that right cuts parties off at the knees…”

    Why should parties deserve any special consideration? All they seem to do is defend their own interests and ideologies to the death, and if that causes the state to fail, so be it. Maybe reducing their power would reduce dysfunction in Sacramento.

    • avatar D Takashima says:

      The political parties are “protected” by the courts and under the US Consititution as a right of association.

      CAIVP–drafted Top 2 measure following up on the US Sup Court approving the State of Washington’s election process. A small group of former legislators–former staffers–Republicans..Democrats–and DTS believe that an open primary process will give voters–NOT political parties control who gets elected in California.

      If anyone wants to learn more about Top 2–go to the CAIVP website.

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