The People vs. The Parties: California Proposition 14 Open Primary Initiative

By Nancy Hanks | Related entries in News

California – the laid back state, the Left Coast — has a real American fight going on. There’s a firestorm over California Proposition 14 open primary initiative. We might expect the major parties to oppose a referendum that gives more power to the people and less to the party bosses. The main opponents of Prop 14 are the Dems and Repubs, however the minor parties have jumped on board. Unfortunately Independent Political Report, the prominent Libertarian blog, has now fallen in line (see their editorial yesterday), joining other short-sighted third party forces like the Libertarians and Greens (and Ralph Nader) who oppose Prop 14, a referendum that would give rights to independent (decline-to-state) voters in California and provide an open field for all candidates in the first round of voting. Read independent attorney Harry Kresky’s HuffPo response to Nader “Why Independents are Right and Ralph Nader is Wrong about Proposition 14.”

And William P. Meyers has a very good pro-14 statement at his California Democracy blog.

I don’t buy the fear-driven arguments of the California Democratic, Republican, and Green Parties. What is good for the citizens is not necessarily what is good for the parties. Incumbents tend to have a lock on elections in California, and so small groups of voters, the majority within the dominant party in each district, decide almost all elections in the primaries.

According to a poll released last Thursday by the Public Policy Institute of California, 56 percent of likely voters support Proposition 14.

This from Roger Clark, Fox & Hounds Daily:

Early polling shows the Open Primary initiative has the overwhelming support of about two-thirds of registered voters. But the political parties will do everything within their power to defeat the initiative at polls. Why? The answer is as simple as it is frustrating. The Open Primary transfers political power to the ordinary man and woman.

It’s a fight Americans have been fighting since 1787 – the fight between the people and the parties.

For more news for independent voters, see The Hankster


This entry was posted on Wednesday, March 31st, 2010 and is filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

9 Responses to “The People vs. The Parties: California Proposition 14 Open Primary Initiative”

  1. kranky kritter Says:

    Doesn’t this referendum include a component where in the final voting, there are only 2 candidates? That seems stupid to me.

    Why not just open the primaries? One thing at a time.

  2. Nick Benjamin Says:

    There are constitutional issues with open primaries:
    http://virginiavirtucon.wordpress.com/2007/10/01/court-affirms-virginias-open-primaries-are-unconstitutional/
    The nub of the issue is that parties are private organizations, and have the right to choose their nominees any way they want. Many of them don’t want open primaries because members of the other party could sabotage their nomination race.

    This frequently happens in Michigan, especially Presidential years. For example George Wallace won the Democratic side once, and in 2000 McCain won the GOP primary. Nonetheless our system is probably constitutional because there is no partisan registration in this state, which makes Closed Primaries impossible.

    But Cali. has partisan voter registration…

    I’m not sure how they got around the issue in this proposal. Best guess is that the two general election candidates are not nominees of their party, and their partisan affiliation is provided for informational purposes only.

  3. Nancy Hanks Says:

    kranky — yes, one thing at a time! Although I agree with the sentiment here. Open the primaries, or better yet, as was noted in a column by Tom Friedman, just do away with the partisans….. :-)

  4. kranky kritter Says:

    The nub of the issue is that parties are private organizations, and have the right to choose their nominees any way they want. Many of them don’t want open primaries because members of the other party could sabotage their nomination race.

    Legitimate concern. But when the primaries are conducted at taxpayer expense in public buildings with pubic officials, I think the private right to do it “however you want” is invalidated.

    I think that the parties should be able to conduct their primarieshowever they want as long as they pay for them themselves. If instead the parties want taxpayers to run things, then the parties have to be subject to the conditions that the taxpayers/voters set. Or opt out if they don’t like those conditions.

    If it’s framed that way, then I don’t think any constitutional issue remains. Because the parties would in fact remain free to act as any other private organization, as long as they were really acting privately, doing their own thing on their own dime.

  5. Leonidas Says:

    I wish independent had the same energy when it came to finding and to promoting independent candidates as they do when they try to dictate to the parties who would win the party primaries.

    If you want a more independent candidate fight for it without infringing on the rights of those who are in a party that made that type of effort at some point in time.

  6. Nancy Hanks Says:

    Leonidas — the issue is that there are more independent voters in the field. From there we could easily move to more independent candidates… Let’s see what happens!

  7. Leonidas Says:

    Yes lets see more independent candidates. Let the Democrats have theirs, the Republicans theirs and the independents theirs. Thats all I’ve been saying, to let each group recruit and support its own candidates independently of the others. Let the voters choose from among them in the general election, but let the groups chose who they want for the primaries independently.

  8. Tully Says:

    But when the primaries are conducted at taxpayer expense in public buildings with pubic officials, I think the private right to do it “however you want” is invalidated.

    States hold and regulate primary elections because they claim the right to, and enforce it by law. Don’t want to pay for it? Quit requiring that you be in control of it. Saying that the resulting expense of those laws justifies telling the parties who they MUST let choose to represent them on the general election ballot is 100% circular self-justification, both authoritarian and downright Orwellian.

    It’s also directly violative of the Constitutional freedom of association of the parties themselves. Prop 14 is a modified re-hash of California’s earlier Prop 198, which SCOTUS threw out on those very grounds in 2000. There are many other cases on point.

    In general the results of other state-versus-party primary-qualification cases involve the same principle: Parties have the right to determine who is allowed to help select their candidates. That principle has guided in decisions both ways — parties have won decisions to open their primaries if they chose, and to close them if they chose, despite the diktats of the state.

    In short, the litigative history strongly suggests that state mandates as to the open/closed form of primaries are only as legitimate as the parties in that state agree them to be. Some few states even have mixed primaries, where one party’s primary is open and the other closed — based on what the individual parties themselves wanted.

  9. Michael LaRocca Says:

    I was a registered Libertarian in North Carolina. My vote was about as influential as the one I got when I moved to China.

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