Wednesday, June 2, 2010

California Proposition 14 - An Opinion

Note:  By coincidence, Left Coast Rebel posted an opinion of Prop 14 this morning too.  And while we took different paths there, we both arrived at the same conclusion.  Please enjoy LCRs commentary here.

You know, it’s pretty rare when you find Democrats and Republicans on the same side of a particular issue – especially here in California where the ideological chasm is deeper and wider than in most of the country. But in California we have just such a conundrum with Proposition 14, a state legislative initiative on California’s June Primary ballot. And while a state proposition does not have much relevance in the other 49, the notion this Proposition attempts to sell to voters does – and will be seen again in similar form in other states. Because of this I’d like to share some details with you and an opinion on Proposition 14.

First, some perspective:

Proposition 14s Office ballot title is: "Elections. Increases Right to Participate in Primary Elections." For the sake of brevity, read a more comprehensive description here. (Ballotpedia

Official description is: Reforms the primary election process for congressional, statewide, and legislative races. Allows all voters to choose any candidate regardless of the candidate’s or voter’s political party preference (LTB: in primary elections). Ensures that the two candidates receiving the greatest number of votes will appear on the general election ballot regardless of party preference. 

Proposition 14 is supported by Gov. Schwarzenegger, Lt. Gov. Maldonado, California Chamber of Commerce, and a consortium of mostly moderate to right-leaning groups and citizens. It is supposed to create a genuine “top-two” primary in California. The supporters of the Proposition contend it will promote more modernist or centrist candidates to be elected to office. The notion is by tightening the profound gap in ideology between viable candidates, elected officials will have more in common once in office – thereby relieving the crippling legislative deadlock we experience in California daily

Opponents of Proposition 14 say the “top-two” primary system stifles voter choice – and that limited choice in any election is a profoundly crippling condition. Proposition 14 is opposed by both state Democratic and Republican Parties, most union leadership, the Green Party, Ralph Nader, Meg Whitman(?) and the typical cast of Progressive/Liberal groups such as the ACLU and FairVote. Opponents also contend Proposition 14 will increase the spending on campaigns – as major parties will have to essentially run each race twice for primary and general election. “Top-two” opponents also contend state costs for elections will rise, and voter turnout will decrease as it has historical in Louisiana and Washington (where a similar measure has been enacted).

So one might ask, why the quandary? On the surface it seems mostly one sided (based on your political persuasion). Most would gaze at the supporters vs. naysayers and vote the party line. But in this case, you might be surprised what you're voting for.

The quandary is that as written, Proposition 14 will not do what is advertised to. As written,  Proposition 14 will more serve to protect the status quo than force improvement. With the by-design effect of narrowing the ideology gap between candidates, it seems that Proposition 14 will in fact not support true Conservatives nor true Progressives. I also feel that human nature being what it is, candidates will be less forthcoming about their true positions on issue - fearful of being cast as a "fringe candidate Prop 14 was passed to prevent". Additionally, Proposition 14 would discard the option of a “write-in candidate” during the general election. Meaning that if I should experience a profound change in who I wish to support (or perhaps the original candidate became embroiled in scandal), the alternate candidate of my choice would not likely be available at the final election.

My voice at the ballot box is therefore rendered moot. My freedom of choice - gone.

If Proposition 14 works as advertised, California becomes a state governed by RINOs and DINOs. And while the Conservative in me says I’d accept anyone “right” of where state leadership is now; the pragmatist in me says that creating cookie-cutter candidates with no ideological spectrum is a bad thing. In my opinion (and apparently that of the state political parties) Proposition 14 is not good for anyone but the candidates themselves. And it goes without saying this state cannot afford to spend more money frivolously on elections. Hell, this state can barely pay its electric bill.

Opponents of Proposition 14 also score big on the historical effect of “two-tier” election systems voted into service elsewhere. It is demonstrable that in Washington State and Louisiana – both which have enacted two-tier primary systems within the past 5 years – voter turnout has decreased while the costs for election cycles has increased 30-40% (spending on campaigning not included).

When I review the wording of Proposition 14, and review states where similar systems are enacted, what I find is:

· Reduction in my choice of candidates
· Reduced spectrum of ideology in candidates
· Increased state costs to manage election cycles, and
· A wholesale reduction in my voice at the ballot box

So while it on the surface this makes me feel like I’m crawling into bed with the enemy, in this particular case my enemy is right. Proposition 14 will not provide the genuine improvements its supporters envision. It will limit Election Day choice, stifle candidate ideology and increase the costs associated with election cycles. Proposition 14 ends up being a wolf in sheep’s clothing – or more accurately – a donkey in RINO skin. Or even "A Pig In A Poke"

And as such, Viewed From The Right suggests you vote: NO ON PROPOSITION 14.


  1. Glad to see you've taken a similar stand to mine. As I have stated elsewhere, I cannot imagine any statute which prohibits write in candidates could be constitutional. However, having seen supreme courts uphold other un-Constitutional statutes, I'd rather not rely on them here either.

    I will update my piece with a link to yours. Consider writing letters to the editor of your local paper. The only advertising I have heard on Prop 14 is the pack of pie in the sky lies they've been telling.

    I'd hate to think the public would get fooled again.

  2. Well, the law is written by RINOs and DINOs, endorsed by same and designed to encourage same to be elected.

    They forgot one thing however - we may not want RINOs and DINOs....

    NO ON 14!