By Ann Menasche
April 1, 2010 (San Diego)--Proponents of Proposition 14 claim that the “Top two primary” would relieve the partisanship and legislative dysfunction that characterize our political system. I could not disagree more. Rather than fixing the situation, Proposition 14 would permanently cement in place the appallingly broken two-party system that has been on full display in Washington this year.
Proposition 14 would effectively eliminate the already limited electoral options for many American voters, preventing innovative ideas and solutions from entering the political debate. Similar laws passed in Washington and Louisiana have not improved the partisan nature of elections or elected officials.
Proposition 14 would deny independent and third party candidates and politicians in this country a chance to be heard while further polarizing our districts and limiting voter choice – all at increased costs to tax payers and candidates. Consider a Democrat living in a district that is 60% Republican; it is likely that almost every general election will feature the two Republican candidates who got the highest votes in the “primary”. This person would effectively be disenfranchised, facing a choice of voting for a candidate s/he strongly opposes or not voting at all. The 25% of Californians who are neither Democrats nor Republicans may never see an independent or third party candidate on the general ballot again.
Is Proposition 14 the best our democracy can hope for? Not when there are real, viable solutions to our electoral problems that are easy to implement, and would increase voter participation and help revitalize our democracy:
1) Instant runoff voting (IRV) and proportional representation – these systems, which allow voters to rank candidates rather than just choosing one, would eliminate costly and poorly attended primaries altogether, solve the partisanship issue by allowing all candidates to compete in an open playing field, prevent “spoiling”, and ensure that the winner garners a majority vote.
2) Same day registration and paid time off on Election Day – ensure all Americans have access to vote.
3) Public financing of campaigns – ensures all candidates have an equal voice in the debate, not just the billionaires, and eliminates corporate domination of our elections.
In a year when voters are angry and disgusted enough to look past the bickering Democrats and Republicans for effective, common sense solutions, it’s not surprising that the two major parties would try to prevent the election of independent and third party candidates while ignoring genuine solutions that would make our elections more democratic. Californians defeated a similar “top two” proposition in 2004. Let’s hope voters will see past this partisan ploy, and vote no on Proposition 14 in June.
Ann Menasche of San Diego is the Green Party candidate for California Secretary of State.
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