Is the Top Two Primary going to change California politics?

150 150 Ed Coghlan

June 5 is quickly approaching. Here, we begin a series of pieces looking at the issues facing Californians at the ballot box.

It has been two years since Californians passed Proposition 14, known as the Top Two Primary. On Tuesday June 5, Californians will get our first look at the effect it will have on our elections.

Essentially what we did was vote for a primary system where the top two vote getters, regardless of party, will advance to the November general election.

In June of 2010, the debate had already erupted on several fronts. Would it dilute the influence of the political parties? Or perhaps increase the influence (and, accordingly, the turnout) of the independent voter in the primary? And possibly most critical at this juncture in California politics: Would it ultimately result in more moderate elected officials?

As you can tell from this two year old New York Times blog, there were a lot of different opinions about what the Two Two Primary would mean.

Two years later, it’s beginning to sink in. This really does have the potential to change things. 

A recent Public Policy Institute of California Poll on the matter showed Californians are still not sure how this is going to work out, although by and large they still think it is a pretty good idea. As the Central Valley Times reported, the growing bloc of California independent voters, known as “Decline to State” still very much likes the idea. 43% of Californians polled think it’s a good thing while only 22% think it’s a bad thing. 

Dan Walters of the Sacramento Bee, one of the state’s top political writers, penned a column last week that argued the dynamics of California politics, indeed, appear to be changing a bit as the June primary approaches.

It should be stated here that California Forward thought Proposition 14 was and is a good idea.

Since 2008, we have supported proposals that empower voters to participate more broadly and that encourage candidates to represent “everyone” in their districts. Check out some of the democracy reform issues that this organization has been working on in recent years to encourage a vibrant and responsive electoral system in the Golden State right here.

As always, we urge you to vote. In addition to some hotly contested local and regional elections, we have a pair of important ballot propositions to consider. Proposition 28 will change our term limits law and Proposition 29 will ask for additional taxes on cigarettes. Here are the pros and cons on Prop. 28 and Prop 29.

We will continue to share with you the opinion and analysis that will most certainly continue to be written about the Top Two primary in the days, months and years to come. 


Ed Coghlan

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