Votes tallied in California’s new open primary system struck down a proposed cigarette tax while upholding a change in term limits for state legislators.
June 5 marks the first time California used an open, or “top-2,” primary instead of its usual closed primary. Besides voting for Propositions 28 and 29, Californians voted for a variety of state legislators and local measures.
Californians chose Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Republican Elizabeth Emken as the top-2 contenders for a U.S. Senate spot in the November general election.
However, the new top-2 system has made for many Democratic Party matchups in the run for House of Representative spots. One of the most contentious local battles was between San Fernando Valley Reps. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.), who will both compete again for the spot in November.
Voted in during the June 2010 election, the “top-2” open primary system allows voters to vote for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation, for seats in the U.S. Congress and state legislature. The top two candidates for that position will then go on to the general election in November.
Proponents of the top-2 system say the system is more friendly to moderate candidates and eliminates a partisan system.
According to a survey conducted by the Institute of Governmental Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, the new system gives moderates a 6-7 percent boost due to voters’ ability to select a wider variety of candidates.
However, opponents of the voting system say it’s not as simple as it seems. Michael Powelson, a history professor who formerly taught at CSUN and now teaches at three different colleges part-time while pursuing his candidacy, is running under the Green Party.
“I have totally been against it from the beginning,” he told the Daily Sundial, about the new system. “It’s outrageous.”
Powelson says independents are directly inhibited by this method of voting.
“We don’t have any choices,” he said. “And it’s because of money.”
He called it a “rigged game” where the two top picks are the candidates with the most money rather than representatives of the community. And, since open voting allows both candidates to be from the same party, the voting may restrict the diversity that a closed ballot provides.
“They’ll have the same politics. They’re virtually identical,” he said.
Los Angeles County Registrar of Voters Dean Logan has also commented that this may happen in some circumstances.
“So what this likely will mean is that we’ll have some districts and some contests in the general election in November where there are two candidates of the same political party,” Logan told KPCC. “That’s a pretty fundamental change in the process.”
Regardless, the new method did little to incite voters to the polls. MSNBC reported statewide voter turnout around 15 percent.
Although Los Angeles City Attorney Carmen Trutanich was expected to win the District Attorney spot due to high campaign contributions and a nod from Gov. Jerry Brown, 32 percent of voters chose Chief Deputy District Attorney Jackie Lacey.
She will be facing off against Deputy District Attorney Alan Jackson in the general election. If she wins in November she will be the first woman and African-American to fill the role.
Los Angeles area voters approved both the hotel tax, Measure H, and the landfill tax, Measure L.
Michael Antonovich took the District 5 County Supervisor spot.
As for superior court judge selections, Sanjay Kumar took office no. 10, Lynn Olson took office no. 38, Andrea Thompson took office no. 65, Eric Harmon took office no. 114, and Sean Coen took office no. 3.
Other local measures were also considered. The Charter Oak Measure CO, for a school bond, was voted in, along with Compton Measure B, Pasadena Measure A, and Sulpher Springs Measure CK.
Three spots for Central Basin water district directors were filled. James Roybal took district 1, Phillip Hawkins took district 5, and Leticia Vasquez took district 4.