California’s new open primary system debuts on Tuesday

On Tuesday, Californians vote in their first ever open primary. Voters can vote for any candidate. They are no longer bound to vote solely for a candidate of their party. Here’s the kicker. The top two vote getters regardless of party affiliation face off in the general election.

The idea here is that this will produce more moderate candidates and thus help end the eternal gridlock that is California politics. Let’s hope so.

But when Californians realize that many general election races will be between two members of the same party, they might have second thoughts. Also, such elections will be bad for party unity because the two candidates will almost certainly attack each other.

This is also damaging to third parties because a major way they keep ballot status in California is by polling 2% in any statewide race in a non-presidential general election. But it is doubtful that any third parties will now be able to make it to the general election. So they will have to do it by having as many registered members as one percent of the previous total vote in the governor’s race. The Green and American Independent parties have enough voters. The Libertarian and Peace and Freedom parties do not.

One noticeable trend in Tuesday’s election is former Republicans running as independents, some of whom are self-financing their campaigns.This includes Bill Bloomfield (33rd Congressional), Chad Walsh (State Assembly 28), and Anthony Adams (8th Congressional.) They all want to work across the aisle. Adams was a Republican assembly member who survived a recall attempt after voting with Democrats to raise taxes so the budget would pass.

This will be quite an experiment in democracy. Despite possible pitfalls, open primaries could well help bring an end to insane hyper-partisan politics in California. And it starts on Tuesday.


  1. I think a better name for this new system is “jungle primary” since only the top two vote getters will proceed to the general election in the fall. This decreases the numbers of points of view that voters get to select from. It also decreases the number of candidates that corporations have to contribute to to buy them off and hedge their bets by contributing to two instead of many.

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