PROP 14, “OPEN” PRIMARY MEASURE, MAY FACE CONSTITUTIONAL CHALLENGES
By Miriam Raftery
June 9, 2010 (Sacramento) – Two ballot measures heavily backed by powerful utility and insurance industry money failed to win approval from voters. By narrow margins, Proposition 16 and 17 were defeated. A third controversial measure, which would eliminate party primary elections, won passage by voters but may face legal challenges in court.
Proposition 16 was put on the ballot by Pacific Gas & Electric Company. The measure, which would have required a two-thirds majority for local cities or counties to offer electrical power at competing rates to utility companies, was rejected by 52.5% of California voters.
Proposition 17, funded by Mercury Insurance Company, would have allowed insurers to hike up rates for consumers who allowed policies to lapse, such as students away at school or those relying temporarily on public transportation. The measure was defeated by a razor-thin 52.1% majority voting no.
Proposition 15, which would have implemented public financing of the Secretary of State race paid for by increasing lobbyist registration fees, also failed, with 57.5% voting against the fair elections measure.
Proposition 13, which exempts seismic retrofitting from triggering reassessment of a home, passed by a hefty 84.5%.
Proposition 14, which will drastically change the primary election system in Cailfornia, won with a 54.2% approval. The measure would scrap party primary elections and instead compel all candidates to run in a single primary election in which all voters may vote for any candidate. The measure goes far beyond "open" primary measures elsewhere. Candidates will not be required to list their party affiliations on the ballot. In addition, the top two-vote getters will advance to a run-off race in November, even if both of the top vote recipients are from the same political party.
The Democratic Party has indicated that it may file a court challenge to the measure, which was opposed by every political party in California. Secretary of State Debra Bowen has indicated that she foresees legal challenges by political parties or others challenging the constitutionality of Proposition 14.