CA Open Primary initiative leads by two-to-one margin

A new poll from the Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) shows likely voters support California’s June 2010 open primary proposal by a two-to-one margin. Sixty percent of likely voters support the measure, compared to 27 percent who oppose it and 13 percent who are undecided.

Republicans, Democrats, and independent voters all support Proposition 14 by significant margins:

  • Independents support it 67 to 19 percent (14 percent undecided)
  • Democrats support it 61 to 26 percent(13 percent undecided)
  • Republicans support it but are the only group to do so by less than a two-to-one margin with 54 percent in support, 33 percent opposed and 13 percent undecided

Proposition 14 would change California’s primary election system so that all candidates for a given office would appear together on one ballot. Every voter, regardless of party registration, could vote for any candidate in the primary election. The two candidates receiving the most votes — regardless of their party affiliation — would continue on to the general election. This system is often referred to as a “top two” election.

Despite the united opposition of California’s Republican and Democratic parties, the proposal appears headed to victory. Support for election reform, including Proposition 14, is driven in no small part by the abysmal approval ratings for the Governor and California Legislature. Only 24 percent of likely voters approve of the job the Governor is doing (66 percent disapprove), and only 11 percent of likely voters approve of the Legislature (80 percent — a seven-to-one ratio — disapprove). Congress slightly edges out the Governor, with 26 percent of California likely voters approving of its performance (68 percent disapprove).

If Proposition 14 is approved and the independent redistricting commission survives efforts this November to abolish it, California will enter a new era in elections. Community-oriented districts and open primaries are likely to bring a new attitude to Sacramento. Elections are likely to place more emphasis on solutions and results, with less interest in the extremist rhetoric we have seen from both parties over the last ten years. The unfortunate (but unavoidable) consequence is that California’s smaller parties — the Greens, Libertarians, etc. — would largely disappear from California general election ballots. Their candidates would very rarely come in first or second in the “top two” primary.

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