The Future of Elections?

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In a little over a week California will vote on Proposition 14 which would drastically change the structure of elections.  Proposition 14 would replace the current primary/general election format and replace it with two rounds of voting where the top 2 vote-getters in round 1 advance to round 2.  Unlike the current primary system where the general election has one Democrat and one Republican, the new system would allow two Democrats or two Republicans to be in the final round if they were the two highest vote-getters.  On the other hand, if each party coalesces around one candidate the final round could be very similar to the current system with one Democrat and one Republican.

Advocates of the proposition feel that it will allow centrist candidates to fare better in elections because in the first round of voting they could get support from both parties and not have to cater to the extremes. As The Desert Sun writes:

We see it every time a primary approaches — Democrats pander to organized labor, promising tax increases to fund more union jobs and government programs, while Republicans scream about taxes and make promises to big business that tie their hands when it comes time to deliver services that are crucial for the people of California.

And what do all the pandering and promises to the extreme wings of both parties during the primaries get Californians? The answer is elected officials who are locked into inflexible, ideological positions making it impossible for them, even before the general election campaign begins, to work towards solutions to get California back on track.

This is how we have ended up with a dysfunctional, extremely partisan Legislature, that can’t reach agreement on any significant issues and therefore has an abysmal 11 percent approval rating.

It’s time for change. It’s time to elect a body of representatives that is beholden to the people of California and who will work together, not to compromise their principles, but to make principled compromises on behalf of the millions of diverse people who make up California.

An open primary system will give every Californian equal access to the same ballot and will put us on track toward restoring the faith we once had in our elected representatives.

To change the partisan, gridlocked culture in the Capitol, we have to change the system.

I agree with politicians like Gov. Schwarzenegger and think that open primaries are a first step in moving towards a more functioning legislature and government as a whole.  Not worrying about the threat of the ‘primary challenge’ would allow legislators to compromise for the good of the state without being paranoid about the electoral repercussions.