CA, we told you so… predictable, unintended consequences of open primaries

Update: 12/12/2012 California | All Bark, No Bite: How California’s Top-Two Primary System Reinforces the Status Quo | State of Elections or as we might say “Barking up the wrong tree”.


Update: Brad points out that it also applies both ways e.g. the Senate race <read>
It seems like a couple of years ago that Ralph Nader and CTVotersCount warned California against open primaries: CA Prop 14: Unsafe at any but greed? <read> You can read Nader’s comments there, here is what we added back in July 2010:

However, we can add to his arguments our vision of the dilemma facing the intelligent voter on primary day: Faced with five, ten, or thirty candidates for an office: Who do you vote for, your favorite, or one you think might have a chance at being in the top two; one that might be more acceptable than others the poll say have a chance? It is just another, perhaps more complex crap shoot.

Now Brad Friedman points to the dilemma facing Democrats in some California counties in Congressional primaries: Will CA’s New ‘Cajun Primary’ System Allow Minority GOP To Capture Congressional Seats? CA-26 House race exemplifies anti-democratic potential of 2010’s voter-approved ‘Top Two’ open primary system… <read>

One example is in the newly created CA-26 Congressional District, which reveals a potential formula by which the GOP can overcome adverse party registration numbers — in that case, 40% (D), 36% (R), 19% (I) — in order to seize a Congressional seat.

Because four Democrats are competing in the CA-26 primary, long suffering progressives, including this writer, who had previously been forced to cast a protest vote in the now defunct, heavily gerrymandered CA-24 District of the outgoing, extreme right-wing Republican Elton Gallegly, may awake on June 6 to the reality that, come next November, they will be forced to choose between a ‘Tea Party’ Republican and a County Supervisor who “changed her voter registration…from Republican to ‘no party preference’ in preparation for her bid for Congress”…

The upcoming CA-26 primary underscores the undemocratic potential of such a primary system. In a three-way race, all other things being equal, one would anticipate 40% to a Democrat, 36% to the Republican and the balance perhaps going to a genuine independent candidate. But here, the 40% for Democrats will be carved up amongst four Democratic candidates running in the same race with one GOP candidate openly running as a Republican and another who had been a Republican until she decided to shed the party label for the upcoming primary to run as an ostensible “Independent.”

Stealth Republican?

The CA-26 race provides a paradigm example of how a “Cajun Primary” can facilitate a seizure of power by a minority party through the use of a stealth Republican, who deceptively dons an “Independent” label.

We wish in cases like this that we were more frequently wrong in our predictions.


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