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Proposition 14 elicits passion on both sides

Juliana D. Norwood | 5/19/2010, 5 p.m.

California generally holds two statewide elections in even-numbered years for candidates seeking state and federal offices--a primary in June and a general election in November.

These political contests--such as those for governor and members of Congress--are partisan, which means that most candidates are associated with a political party.

In these contests, the results of a primary election determine each party's nominee for the office. The candidate receiving the most votes in a party primary election is that group's nominee for the general election. In the general election, voters choose from among all of the parties' nominees, as well as any independent candidates on the ballot.

Some people are trying to change that with an initiative placed on the June ballot.

If approved by voters, Proposition 14 will require that candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters, with the top two vote-getters meeting in a runoff. The new system would take effect for the 2012 election.

Specifically, the initiative would provide for a "voter-nominated primary election" for each state elective office and congressional seat in California. Residents could vote in the primary election for any candidate without regard to the political party affiliations of either the candidate or the voter. Candidates could choose whether or not to have their political party affiliation displayed on the ballot.

The proposition also prohibits political parties from nominating candidates in a primary, although political parties would be allowed to endorse, support or oppose candidates. Elections for presidential candidates and for members of political party committees and party central steering committees would not fall under the "top two" system.

This is not the first time proponents have gone to the voters with this request. Californians defeated Proposition 62 in 2004, a similar measure, by 54-46 percent. State of Washington voters approved a very similar measure, Initiative 872, in 2004, while Oregon voters rejected Measure 65, in 2008.

The main argument supporters make for Proposition 14 is that it might cause voters to elect more moderate members of the California State Legislature.

Opponents counter with two main arguments. They say in states where a similar system is in use, it has not resulted in the election of more moderate politicians, and that if Proposition 14 is approved, it will result in the destruction of California's minor and independent political parties.

This means individuals will be able to votes for any candidate for state and congressional offices, regardless of political party preference. Supporters say non-partisan measures like Proposition 14 will result in elected representatives in Sacramento and Washington who are less partisan and more practical.

This means candidates also would no longer be required to list their party affiliation on the ballot. They would appear to be independents, but would still remain in their political party.

Voting no on Proposition 14 would mean voters would continue to receive primary election ballots based on their political party. The candidate with the most votes from each political party would continue to advance to the general election Assemblymember Sandré Swanson, chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus, stated, "Minorities have historically been extremely loyal voters for the Democrats, and their numbers have been growing in recent years. Their influence is very substantial, and the primaries influence is felt to a great degree. Proposition 14 essentially eliminates the primary system except for the instance of the presidency.