Non-partisan voters slip into ‘ajar’ primary
The voting booth is ajar and the phone is ringing off the hook at the Elections Department.
Confusion reigns throughout El Dorado County, as well as the entire state of California, over the March 5 primary election.
The process used to be simple. Registered members had to vote the ballot of their political party. Democrats voted for Democrats. Republicans voted for Republicans.
But in March 1996 California passed an open primary measure allowing people the right to vote for whomever they wanted regardless of political party. By supporting Proposition 128, voters said they support the idea of voting for whomever they like. Moreover, people like the option of voting against someone they don’t like.
But in June 2000 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the California proposition was unconstitutional because it “violated a party’s First Amendment right of association.”
So what we have March 5 is a “consolidated direct primary election,” an altered, confusing version of what the voters passed six years ago. Down at the Elections Department in Placerville, where they are fielding two to three dozen calls a day on the subject, they have a different name for it.
“We’ve had an open primary, a closed primary and now we have a ‘slightly ajar primary,'” said Registrar Michele MacIntyre. “It makes life difficult.”
The high volume of inquiries makes it obvious voters want to cross party lines to vote for candidates running for governor, treasurer or seats in the California Legislature or U.S. Congress. To do so, a voter must be registered as non-partisan, or have declined to state a party affiliation or be in a non-qualified party. Simple, huh?
Changing party affiliations is easy, but the Feb. 19 deadline is fast-approaching. Registration forms are available at any post office.
Simple enough? Well, I hope I don’t confuse you with further details.
Non-partisan voters can vote for any candidate among the four parties that agreed to the adopted rules: Democrat, Republican, American Independent and Natural Law. Those are the parties that agreed to be slightly ajar.
Many people have switched to non-partisan status. Of the nearly 90,000 registered voters in El Dorado County, more than 12,000 are non-partisan.
I suspect a great deal of the county’s non-partisian voters are actually Democrats who are doing what they can to unseat the highly conservative 4th District U.S. Representative John Doolittle. Doolittle’s Republican opponent is the moderate Bill Kirby, who would be the lesser of two evils from a liberal point of view.
The non-qualified party members also can vote for candidates in the four agreeing parties. This applies to voters who are (ital) not (ital) Democrat, Republican, American Independent, Natural Law, Green, Libertarian or Reform.
Hopefully, Tahoe Basin voters have a better grasp of the slightly ajar primary and it will spare some explaining from the folks down at the Elections Department.
“We’re starting to get tired and it’s only begun,” MacIntyre lamented.
DTim Parsons is the opinion page editor