On June 8, California voters are being asked to weigh in on two proposals to tinker with the electoral system.
In both cases, the idea is to reshape the California Legislature so that it is more responsive to the people. In our view, both measures are flawed and voters should say no.
Proposition 14 amends the California Constitution to allow open primaries, meaning any voter can vote for a candidate of any party. The notion is that by allowing voters that freedom, the two most popular candidates will make the runoff election, giving more power to the primary vote and perhaps forcing candidates to position themselves to appeal to a broad cross-section of voters instead of the most powerful interests within their own parties.
In practice, experts suggest this means that voters in many California districts will choose between two Democrats, while perhaps in a handful of districts two Republicans will survive the primaries and run against each other. They also ponder the likelihood that this shift will merely put more emphasis on candidates’ ability to raise money early in the election cycle.
The proposed change comes as California is planning a new way of drawing political boundaries, based on a proposition passed a few years ago — but even that plan is uncertain because of a measure slated for the November ballot.
In our view, it is uncertain whether Proposition 14 would have a beneficial impact and it comes at a time when the elections process in California is already in flux. We urge a no vote.
As for Proposition 15, at a time when the state can’t pay for even core services or reduce its crushing debt, Proposition 15 seeks to raise registration fees on lobbyists — not in itself a bad idea — but then spend the money on taxpayer funding of campaigns, which decidedly is not a core service.
In such dire times, we’d prefer to see every penny of California dollars go to righting the ship of state as well as maintaining appropriate public safety staffing and infrastructure projects.
Other aspects of Proposition 15 are questionable, from the utility of experimenting with an office that barely registers in the public mind, the office of Secretary of State, to the core question of whether it is a good idea at all to use taxpayer dollars to fund election advertisements.
Neither Proposition 14 or 15 seems likely to deliver the positive reforms it promises. We urge voters to say no to Propositions 14 and 15.