The Props: NO on 62 -- Primary Elections
YES on 60 -- Political Parties in Elections

By limiting choice in the general election to the top two vote-getters from the primaries, Prop 62 all but guarantees that third parties will never have a fair shot at gaining power.

In a community where one party possesses the allegiance of a significant portion of registered voters, it is not unlikely, if this initiative passes, that the selection of candidates on election day will be reduced to two of that party. Similarly, a low turnout in an uncontested primary could result in the top candidates from a hotly disputed but closely decided race among the opposition being the only choices in the general election, even if the disputatious party is not normally the favorite of a majority of voters in that district.

Prop 62 also allows any citizen, no matter how registered, to vote for any candidate of any party. But primaries are the mechanism the parties employ to choose their candidates and, by extension, most of their leaders. If it passes, this "reform" will lead inevitably to weaker party loyalties. And weaker parties make it harder for voters to judge candidates and to hold them accountable.

Also, when one party is particularly settled in its candidates -- this would most frequently be the case of a party that already holds a particular seat, its members will be released to make mischief for its competitors. As a Democrat, I am not especially pleased with the idea of Republicans and Independents picking my representatives. It's to be hoped that Republicans, Greens, Libertarians, and so on, feel the same.

In addition, there are sometimes factors at work other than the relative merit of the Democratic and Republican nominees. For example, if control of a legislature is in balance, you may wish to vote for the delegate from the party you hope will win the majority of the body in question, regardless of the individual merits the candidates on the ballot. Better a mediocre Democrat in your district and control of the House, than a fabulous Republican (should there be such) in your district and minority status in the House.

Here in California the incumbent Democratic Senator, Barbara Boxer, is running against a nonentity, but in a state where the question is closer, the matter of the Senate's role in consenting or not to the next several appointments to the Supreme Court ought to weigh heavily in the Democrat's favor, even if he is, to take an example so extreme as almost to undermine the argument, of the caliber of a Zell Miller. As you choose your senator this year, you may want to give a thought to the prospect of Chief Justice Scalia.

There is another factor. On occasion, you may not wish to vote for either of the top two primary vote-getters, whether they are both Republicans, both Democrats, or one from column A and one from column B. For some voters, the major parties too often serve up a choice between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. If Prop 62 is successful, your menu of candidates will be even narrower than it is already. Surely, no one save the most partisan Republican and Democrat can want that.

"Reform" nearly always is the code word applied by its backers to any change of procedure that seeks to put a limit on democracy. From charter cities to term limits, political reforms commonly have the effect of weakening the power of the people's representatives while concomitantly increasing the influence of ruling elites, special interests and bureaucrats. If we're going to have reform, let's have it target power not indulge it.

As an aside, if we consider greater choice to be a desirable goal, why not create a primary in which candidates who do not wish to be affiliated with a party can run and voters who do not wish to be affiliated with a party can vote? The top winner in this primary could then appear on the general election ballot along with the victors in the partisan races; Democrat, Republican, Peace & Freedom, Libertarian, Green, et al, now joined by an "Independent."

As for Prop 60, it would deserve to lose, too, if 62 weren't on the ballot and in danger of winning approval. The "Election Rights of Political Parties" initiative assures that any candidate who wins a primary gets a position on the general election ballot. No one can be excluded for receiving an insufficient number of votes in the primaries. Thus 60 will thwart 62's ambition to exclude all but the top two primary vote-getters. Prop 60 would fail for being needless if the possibility of a win by Prop 62 didn't acquire it relevancy; if 62 passes, then at least Prop 60 preserves the citizenry's current range of choices; if 62 fails, the passage of Prop 60 leaves us no worse off, something too rarely possible to say of a California referendum.

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