NY: don’t follow CA in making “Top Two” error

NY considers “Jungle Primary” we call it another “Centrist Dream”.

Political Insanity
– doing the same thing that has failed elsewhere, over and over.

We have positions on a variety of election issues. The Top Two Primary is one we oppose with a moderate level of intensity. It is a failed idea, not a complete disaster, hopefully an idea that fails after a few tests in States. We and Ralph Nader warned California. Now it is time to warn New York not to make the same mistake..

For once we have progressive opposition from the American Prosepct/Madison Capitol Times editorial:Jungle Primary] Brings Untended Consequences <read>

Would the dysfunction of U.S. politics be dispelled if we got rid of partisan primaries? That’s the contention of Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y. In an op-ed for The New York Times, Schumer argued that the primary system in most states, in which voters choose nominees for their respective parties who then run head to head in November, gives too much weight to the party faithful, who are inclined to select candidates who veer either far right or far left. The cure Schumer proposes for this ill is the “jungle primary,” in which all primary candidates, regardless of party, appear on the same ballot, with the top two finishers, again regardless of party, advancing to the general election. The senator cites the example of California — once the most gridlocked of states, now a place where legislation actually gets enacted — as proof that such primaries work. But Schumer misunderstands what got California working again. In so doing, he also misses the fatal flaws of the jungle primary…

Schumer misunderstands what got California working again. In so doing, he also misses the fatal flaws of the jungle primary…

And what has the jungle primary accomplished? Its adherents had hoped that, in heavily conservative districts where the top two primary finishers were both Republicans, the more centrist of the two would win the November runoff by corralling more Democratic and independent votes. So far, however, that hasn’t happened. Democrats representing more centrist districts, generally in inland California, do tend to be less liberal, but that was the case long before the jungle primary came into effect.

The jungle primary has had one stunningly perverse effect, however. In a new congressional district east of Los Angeles, Democratic voters had a clear majority — so clear that four Democratic candidates and two Republicans sought the seat in the 2012 primary. Democratic votes split four ways, enabling the two Republicans to advance to November’s ballot. The eventual winner, Gary Miller, chose not to run for re-election this year — understandably, since his record in no way reflected the desires of most district voters.

A weird one-off result? This June, three Democrats and two Republicans sought the statewide office of controller. More Democrats than Republicans tend to file for statewide office in California, and for good reason: The GOP is in free-fall in the state; its share of registered voters has dropped beneath 30 percent; just one Republican (Arnold Schwarzenegger) has been elected to any of California’s 10 statewide offices in the past 20 years. But since Democrats split their votes three ways for the controller’s slot and Republicans just two, a shift of less than 2 percent of the vote would have saddled voters with a Republican-vs.-Republican runoff.

And perhaps the most interesting prediction in the piece, based directly on the example above.

Fast-forward to 2018, when Democrat Jerry Brown, almost certain to be re-elected this November, will be term-limited out of the governor’s office. More Democrats than Republicans will surely line up to succeed him. But under the jungle rules, even though it’s all but certain that the Democratic candidates will collectively aggregate more support, it’s a distinct possibility that two Republicans will face off in November.

This is your solution, senator? Think again.

This all goes to show why it is called a Jungle Primary. We prefer to call it a Crap Shoot, because, like many reforms, its intention is to correct a perceived past problem, but just replaces one imperfect system with another – fighting the last war.

(And who said that centrism is a worthy goal – its usually defined only in the vision of a particular pundit or politician, completely in agreement with that pundit’s own views)

Senator Schumer’s Op-Ed in the New York Times: End Partisan Primaries, Save America <read> Anyone should be suspicions of such a dramatic headline “Save America”.

And a couple  of informed letters the Op-Ed generated to the New York Times  make additional points <read>

Rather than keeping fringe characters out of office, an open primary would allow a pair of well-funded zealots to lock up a “top two” primary by driving turnout of a few passionate voters in what are typically pretty apathetic primary environments, especially in a gerrymandered district…

California’s June primary under the new system resulted in the lowest voter turnout ever for a statewide election, with just 25.2 percent of voters participating.

The “top two” system has also led to a number of legislative and Congressional districts where voters will be able to choose only between candidates of one party in November, which is hardly democratic. Despite the fact that Democrats have an overwhelming registration advantage in the state, the top-two system nearly resulted in no Democratic candidate on the ballot for one office when multiple candidates split up the Democratic vote.

In addition, it has had the effect of eliminating third parties and write-ins from the November contest, giving voters less choice.

And perhaps the worst result of all — the proliferation of independent expenditure committees, which spent more nearly $4 million to try to win a Bay Area Assembly seat for corporate interests.


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