California voters approve open primary elections
Associated Press Writer
LOS ANGELES (AP) – California voters fed up with politics as usual scrapped their partisan primary system Tuesday in favor of an open one in which voters can cast ballots for any candidate.
The passage of Proposition 14 reflects voter anger in California and across the nation at a system that critics complained has been dominated by a small coterie of political activists in each of the two major political parties.
Backers of the California measure included Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has long argued that centrist candidates from either major party rarely win primaries.
An open primary, Schwarzenegger and other proponents of Proposition 14 say, gives an advantage to more moderate candidates who, once elected, might succeed in getting more done.
Schwarzenegger’s own campaign committee donated $2 million to support the effort and the California Chamber of Commerce gave $720,000 more.
Until now, voters have been limited in most primary elections to casting ballots for candidates of only the political party they are registered with. But beginning next year, a voter can cast a ballot for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation.
Under the new system, two candidates of the same party could face off in a general election in state and federal races.
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. The Green and the Peace and Freedom parties ran radio and television ads opposing Proposition 14, but their fundraising was dwarfed by backers of the measure.
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.