Why Top Two is a Bad Idea

  • Proposition 121 is attempting to bring California-style primary elections to Arizona

    Voters in doubt about how to vote on Proposition 121 should look to our neighbor to the west and decide if they want California-style primary elections in Arizona.  The California top two primary system is similar to the one proposed in Proposition 121.  All candidates and voters would participate in one primary; the top two [...]

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  • Viewpoints: Top-two primary hurt competition in the Golden State

    By Steven Hill The Sacramento Bee In early June, California held an election featuring the first-time use of the top-two primary and legislative districts redrawn by an independent commission. Both of these reforms have been touted nationwide as ones that could help elect more moderates, decrease legislative polarization and increase competition and voter choice. Yet [...]

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    California GOP Drama Illustrates How Top Two Choke Point Puts MORE Power Into the Hands of Party Insiders

    By Solomon Kleinsmith As much this staunch centrist independent finds some sense of amusement from the fact that the California GOP is having internal problems in response to the “top two” choke point part of Proposition 14, this story illustrates one of the major problems of limiting only two people through primaries and into a [...]

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    Straight Talk vs Political Obfuscation on Top Two “Choke Point” Primaries

    What I don’t get, at all, is when spin goes so far that when you ask them about an issue they literally refuse to talk about it. This has been the case with every single person I’ve been able to engage with one on one with Top Two primary rules.

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    Gautam Dutta: Why People Hate Politics

    The issue is simple. If a newly passed California law (SB 6) is allowed to kick in, thousands of voters will be disenfranchised. Why? Because with SB 6, if you cast a vote for a write-in candidate in a general election, your vote will not be counted.

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    Free and Equal Radio Show – Senate Bill 6 Lawsuit Interviews – 8/3/2010

    Free & Equal Radio Tuesday Night 7pm to 9pm Pacific Time. Steve Chessin, a plaintiff in the lawsuit against California Senate Bill 6 will join us, along with the attorney that is representing the plaintiffs in that lawsuit Gautam Dutta.

    Steve Chessin is an election reform activist in California and a member of Californians for Electoral Reform who has supported successful efforts to use IRV elections in CA.

    Guatam Dutta has an extensive background in the law and currently practices in California. He was recently the Deputy Director of the Political Reform Program at the New America Foundation working on government reform and election law issues.

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    (Video) Statement by Attorney Gautam Dutta in response to Governor Schwarzenegger and Lt Governor Maldonado’s attacks on the SB 6 / Prop 14 lawsuit

    “Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lieutenant Governor Abel Maldonado’s joint attacks on the SB 6 lawsuit are baseless attempts to deviate attention from the real issues at hand. It is telling that both the Governor and the Lieutenant Governor, who is the author of SB 6, have not challenged the legal merits of our lawsuit or denied the allegations that SB 6 will disenfranchise voters and censor candidates from smaller political parties. They are attempting to diminish the illegality of SB 6 by throwing around phrases like “special interests” and “party bosses.” The fact is this lawsuit was brought by six individuals (four voters and two candidates) who are concerned about the serious implications of SB 6. This lawsuit is not funded by any political party, organizations or so-called “special interests.”

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    California Enshrines the Duopoly

    by Ralph Nader

    Last month, Big Business interests shamelessly dealt our already depleted democracy a devastating blow by misleading California voters into approving Proposition 14, without their opponents being able to reach the people with rebuttals.

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    California Dreaming – Sabato’s Crystal Ball

    The “top two” primary system is not going to change the realities of partisan polarization and one-party domination of large areas of California. Given the sharp ideological divide between Democratic and Republican voters, liberal Democrats will continue to dominate elections in Democratic regions of the state and conservative Republicans will continue to dominate elections in Republican regions of the state.

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    “Top Two” Illusions

    The “top two” system does not provide any particular incentive for winning an actual majority of votes in a primary; the top finisher still must face the runner-up in the general election, where turnout is very likely to be much higher. So the safe thing to do is to nail down a general election spot by appealing to partisans (Prop 14 does not repeal party registration, which means that candidates will know exactly whom to contact with partisan messages), while beginning the general election campaign by going after the other party’s preferred candidate.

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    Prop. 14 morning-after blues / History of the top two

    Come late summer or early fall 2012, voters are going to wake up and wonder why they only have two choices. There will no longer be Peace and Freedom Party, Libertarian Party, Green Party or American Independent Party candidates on the general-election ballot. Independent candidates will no longer be allowed to qualify for the general-election ballot.

    To top it off, write-in votes will no longer be counted in the general election. ///
    The top-two system was invented in Louisiana in 1975. Louisiana has had 35 years of experience with it. I am amazed that people will speculate about how it will work and not actually discuss what really happened in Louisiana.

    In 35 years, no minor party candidate ever qualified for the second round.

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    Flawed primary in California

    “Hopefully, California will discard the top-two primary system and consider different and better options.” – Dr. Joseph Kolacinski is an assistant professor in Elmira College’s Department of Mathematics.

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    Top Two Election Idea Spreading, StopTopTwo.org Is There To Fight It

    “StopTopTwo.org is alive and kicking, and we are going to continue fighting this Top Two election system wherever it pops up,” Christina Tobin said. “This doesn’t stop with Proposition 14 in California. StopTopTwo.org will keep our eyes on the nation to make sure the public is educated about better election system options than Top Two.”

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    “Top Two” Primaries Benefit Tax-Raisers, Disenfranchise Tax-Cutters

    “Hewlett-Packard’s major financial support of Proposition 14 was disgusting. Our organization will never again buy any products bearing the Hewlett-Packard label, and I urge all taxpayers who will be disenfranchised by Proposition 14 to do the same.”

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    Steven L. Taylor – Electoral Reform in California

    Political Scientist John J. Pitney, Jr. notes: “In states that have tried similar election procedures, there is little evidence that a more moderate political culture has resulted.”

    Further, I would point out that the likelihood will remain that the voters who will turn out for the “primary” (i.e., the first round) will still be the more hardcore/partisan/ideological voters as opposed to the larger and likely more moderate voters who turn out for the general election (i.e., the second round). As such, this change does not alter a basic structural aspect of the process (i.e., the electorate that choose the top two is not the same as the electorate that chooses the officeholder–which is true of primaries in general).

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    George Will – California’s proposition mush

    Voters who prefer their political menu seasoned with the spices provided by minor parties are pretty much out of luck. Under Proposition 14, such parties — Green, Libertarian, etc. — which previously could place candidates on November ballots, will almost always be excluded from those by failing to run first or second in primaries.

    But, then, blandness is the point of this reform. It seeks to generate a homogenized political class, one not lumpy with liberals and conservatives who, being conviction politicians, do not always play well with others.

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    The Cap Times – A primary primer

    “There are plenty of pitfalls here, the most worrisome being that it would drive up the cost of elections and give more moneyed (and corporate-allied) candidates a sharper competitive edge while elbowing out progressives. It would allow Republicans to play a role in what would normally be Democratic primaries (and vice versa). The measure would also make it nearly impossible for smaller parties — the Green Party, for example — to offer candidates in the November elections.

    “Bad idea, bad process, Vote no.

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    Ralph Nader to Speak against Proposition 14 on Ron Owen’s KGO Show at 9:30 a.m. on Monday

    Ralph Nader will speak today against Proposition 14, the Top Two Primaries Act that Gov. Schwarzenegger, Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, and the California Chamber of Commerce are pushing onto Californians. Nader is scheduled to speak on Ron Owen’s KGO show at 9:30 a.m. PDT on Monday.

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    Donklephant – The ‘First, DO Harm’ Act – CA Prop 14

    This proposition flat out screws the minor parties. This glaring selfishness is made embarrassingly worse by the fact that several independent supporters I have communicated with, or read explanations of their reasoning for support, of the proposition have actually touted this as a way of further marginalizing these minor parties. This rings of a bully at school taking his anger out on even smaller kids because his bigger brothers have been beating on him for years. In fact, this is precisely what this is.
    I’m not going to split hairs on this issue. Independents that support this bill should be ashamed of themselves.

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    Progressive Party Movement Opposes Proposition 14 in California Vote

    The result of the top-two election system is the systematic elimination of any choice for voters other than Republican or Democrat in the general election, unless a third party can overcome one of the two “major parties” in the primary.

    We therefore urge California voters to vote NO on Proposition 14 if they wish to retain their constitutionally guaranteed right to vote for the candidate of their choice in each and every election.

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    Why top two primary is bad for third parties

    In summary, the Top Two Primary has not solved any problems, and it has created new ones. Incumbents still rule the legislature.

    The Top Two is not a solution. It is a problem. We urge you to vote, “NO” on Prop. 14.

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    WarIsACrime.org: Washington State’s Third Party Leaders Issue Anti-Proposition 14 Statement

    Leaders from Washington State’s Third Party Coalition released a statement today urging California voters to vote no on Proposition 14. The coalition is comprised of the American Heritage Party, Constitution Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, and Progressive Party. The Top Two Primary System in Action — The Experience of Third Parties in Washington State

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    New Libertarian Party National Chair Opposes California Proposition 14

    Mark Hinkle, newly elected chair of the National Libertarian Party, and former chair of the Libertarian Party of California, issued the following statement today about California’s Proposition 14, the “Top-Two” elections measure:

    “Californians, please vote NO on Proposition 14. This is not the change we need. This Top Two system will shut out all but two voices in our November elections, which are the elections that count. Now more than ever, we need more political voices and broader representation on the November ballot, but this proposition will do just the opposite.”

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    Ralph Nader Warns Californians: Vote NO on Proposition 14 — Stop the “Top Two” Tyranny

    Ralph Nader, who has run for president both as an independent and as a third-party candidate, today warned against the ballot proposition promoted by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. “Californians need to defeat Proposition 14 or they will risk further entrenching the two-party system,” stated Nader.

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    Washington State’s Third Party Leaders Issue Anti-Proposition 14 Statement

    Leaders from Washington State’s Third Party Coalition released a statement today urging California voters to vote no on Proposition 14. The coalition is comprised of the American Heritage Party, Constitution Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, and Progressive Party. The Top Two Primary System in Action — The Experience of Third Parties in Washington State

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    Little evidence in Washington that ‘top two’ primary moderates politics

    But the experience in Washington so far offers little evidence that Proposition 14 proponents’ promises of increased turnout and more moderate officeholders will pan out in California. “There was nothing dramatic enough that happened to make someone stand up and say, ‘Wow, this is really different,’ ” said Travis Ridout, a political science professor at [...]

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    Huffington Post – Top Two Reasons To Reject The Top Two Primary by Gautam Dutta of the New America Foundation

    Here are the top two reasons to reject Prop 14, also called the “Top Two” Primary. First, Prop 14 will stifle political competition and debate. Second, Prop 14 will deprive voters of a full range of candidate choices.

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    StopTopTwo.Org Announces Two Events for Wednesday: San Francisco Labor Council Press Conference and Marin Libertarian Party’s Pre-Primary Event

    StopTopTwo.Org announces two events for Wednesday: The San Francisco Labor Council will hold a press conference at noon. The anti-Proposition 14 press conference will feature all six qualified political parties. Marin Libertarian Party’s Pre-Primary Event “Liberty, Fiscal Responsibility and Change in American Society” will include a segment on Proposition 14. Christina Tobin’s StopTopTwo.org – Vote [...]

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    Don’t Like Negative Campaigns? – Then You Won’t Like Prop 14 – Tom Del Beccaro, Republican Party Vice-Chairman

    As primary day approaches, negative campaign ads are on the rise.  When asked, most voters are firmly against negative campaign ads and if you are one of them, then you will hate Prop 14.  One of the unintended side-effects of Prop 14–and there are many–is that the number of negative ads will rise dramatically in [...]

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    Stop Top Two – NO on Proposition 14 by Californian’s for Electoral Reform (CfER)

    Californians for Electoral Reform opposes Proposition 14 on the June 8, 2010 statewide ballot. Almost all of our work on this issue is being done through participation in StopTopTwo.org, a broad coalition that includes many electoral reform and ballot access organizations, as well as all six ballot qualified political parties. This page provides links to [...]

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    EDITORIAL: Vote no on Prop. 14; save options

    We think the argument for the idea, endorsed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, sounds better than the reality. The proponents assume that a “top two” primary system will push candidates to the middle, eliminate the stranglehold the far right and left have over the Republican and Democratic parties, and help moderate the Legislature. We don’t think [...]

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    The real solution for moderates (and the rest of us)

    If “moderate” voters are under-represented by politicians of the existing political parties, the solution is not a futile attempt to customize the voting rules in their favor. The solution is a new centrist political party. We also need healthy socialist and other parties to represent other points of view. Instead of weakening political parties, we [...]

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    Contra Costa Times – Secretary of state candidate wants easier ballot access

    Tobin, 28, says one of the chief reasons she is running is to guarantee that future California ballots will feature that same range of choice. She is using her candidacy to challenge Proposition 14, the so-called open ballot initiative, which will also be on the November ballot.

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    Proposition 14 would Greatly Reduce Voters’ Choices in the Much Larger, Much More Important General Election!

    In 2003, we had an election similar to what Prop 14 proposes. There were 135 candidates on the ballot plus 28 qualified write-in candidates for one office, Governor. Under Prop 14 general election write-in votes would no longer be counted. No runoff election was allowed in 2003. Under Prop 14, a runoff election would be [...]

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    Washington State Open Legislative Seat Reveals Flaw in “Top-Two” Process

    The Washington legislature’s 18th district is a safely Republican district. Earlier this year, the incumbent for one of the two State House seats in that district said she would not run for re-election. Soon after, six Republicans announced that they would run for the seat (House Seat 18-1). Each Washington state legislative district elects two House members. The two contests are separate from each other on primary and general election ballots. Candidates either file for seat (1) or seat (2). The voters elect one candidate in the 18-1 contest, and one candidate in the 18-2 contest.

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    California Author of Proposition 14 Has Poor Record on Voting Rights Bills

    California’s Lieutenant Governor, Abel Maldonado, has made public appearances in the last few months, in which he advocates for Proposition 14 and also holds himself out as a champion of voting rights. However, his record while he was in the state legislature does not suggest that he was interested in expanding voting rights.

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    Political Scientists Who Have Studied Polarization Do Not Believe that Top-Two or Blanket Primaries Ease Polarization

    Several California newspapers have recently endorsed Proposition 14, and they all say the same thing in their editorials. They all assert that California’s legislature is polarized and that a “top-two” system will make the legislature less polarized and less partisan.

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    The Print Media Gets It Wrong on Prop 14 – California Republican Party Vice-Chairman Tom Del Beccaro

    Prop 14, falsely dubbed an “open” primary, has found support among some prominent California newspapers.  The Sacramento Bee says it will be a “win for democracy.”   The San Francisco Chronicle says it will “create real competition.”   The San Jose Mercury Says it will result in “a broader electorate choosing more results-oriented representatives.“  Those papers could [...]

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    Thirteen Reasons To Vote No on Prop 14/Top Two – Green Party National Co-Chair & Mayor of Santa Monica (2000-2002)

    Proposition 14 is a political Trojan horse masquerading as electoral reform, that would reduce political voice and voter choice, while unfairly favoring incumbency and big money. At a time when California needs transformational change to address its multiple crises, Prop 14 would lurch the state backwards and institutionalize a deeply flawed election scheme in our constitution.

    There should be no doubt that Prop 14 is a frontal attack on democracy. It is designed to stifle diversity and competition within the major parties, limit the choices of independent voters and drive minor parties off the ballot entirely.

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    Rob Richie Rob Richie Executive director of FairVote: Why FairVote Opposes California’s Prop 14 – But Seeks Reform

    FairVote’s Board of Directors recently voted to oppose Proposition 14 on the ballot this June in California. Here is our statement. Many Californians are frustrated with their state’s politics. Incumbents almost never lose, most general elections are lopsided, and most elections are effectively decided in low-turnout primaries. The status quo is hard to defend, but [...]

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    Proposition 14 is a Trick on Voters – Peace & Freedom Governor Candidate Stewart Alexander

    The official summary of Proposition 14 to appear on the California ballot was prepared by California Attorney General Jerry Brown, the proposition was sponsored by California Lieutenant Governor Able Maldonado and co-sponsored by two Democratic senators, Lou Correa of Santa Ana and Lois Wolk of Stockton; however, PFP Governor Candidate Stewart Alexander says “Proposition 14 [...]

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    The Sacramento Bee Viewpoints: Open primary really shuts door on moderates – California Libertarian Party Secretary of State Candidate Christina Tobin

    For more than three presidential cycles Ralph Nader has worked to open the political system to more voices and more choices for American voters. That’s why it is particularly strange that Harry Kresky, in his commentary in favor of California adopting Proposition 14 for an open primary system, would claim that by opposing the initiative, [...]

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    San Jose Mercury News Endorses Prop. 14 But Gets Facts Wrong

    The editorial says that Proposition 14 wouldn’t injure minor parties, but the only reason it gives for saying so is that in 1999, Audie Bock, a Green Party member, was elected to the legislature in a special election. However, Audie Bock only got 8% in the first round, placing third. Under Proposition 14, she could [...]

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    LOCAL VIEW: Prop. 14 will shutter political process – Michael M. Rosen, Secretary of the San Diego County Republican Party

    Prop. 14 would, in fact, abrogate primaries and replace them with two general elections, causing the effective disappearance of all minor parties from the November election. No surprise, then, that an unholy alliance of the California Democratic and Republican parties, the Libertarian Party and the ACLU all forcefully oppose it.

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    EDITORIAL: PROP. 14 WILL MAKE OUR BROKEN TWO-PARTY POLITICAL SYSTEM EVEN WORSE – California Green Party Secretary Of State Candidate Ann Menasche

    Proponents of Proposition 14 claim that the “Top two primary” would relieve the partisanship and legislative dysfunction that characterize our political system. I could not disagree more. Rather than fixing the situation, Proposition 14 would permanently cement in place the appallingly broken two-party system that has been on full display in Washington this year.

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    Political Re-form or Political De-form? – Blair Bobier of the New America Foundation

    Top Two, as proposed in California, would radically restrict voters’ choices. Third party and independent candidates would be eliminated from the November ballot. In some places, voters might have only two Democrats on the ballot; in other places, only two Republicans. Top Two also exacerbates the problem of spoiler candidates and vote-splitting…

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    Political Scientist Doubts California’s Prop. 14 Will Curtail Partisanship

    Seth Masket is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at the University of Denver. He has studied partisanship and polarization in state legislatures, and he understands the harm that extreme partisanship can do. However, he doubts that California’s Proposition 14 will cure polarization in the California legislature…

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    Announces New Endorsement and Exposes Large Corporations Lining Up to Buy Proposition 14 – California Libertarian Party Secretary of State Candidate Christina Tobin

    Big corporate money is pouring in to support Proposition 14. Blue Shield of California, Hewlett Packard, Shea Homes, Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway, and Pacific Life Insurance Company are among the large corporate contributors. The list of contributors is located on the California Secretary of State website here. The California Association of Health Underwriters PAC [...]

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    Top Five Reasons Why Californians Should Reject Top-Two Primaries – David Schwab of greenchange.org

    If top-two passes, the political discourse will suffer, because the period between June primaries and November elections, currently the most active time for public debate, will be purged of the independent…

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    Will Prop. 14 kill third parties? – Author John Seiler is a reporter and analyst at CalWatchDog.com

    Californians keep tinkering with the state’s elections system. That’s understandable given the low esteem in which Golden State politicians are…

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    Dangerous Proposition to Limit Voters’ Choices – California Peace & Freedom Party Lieutenant Governor Candidate C.T. Weber

    Be aware Californians, on your June 8, 2010, direct primary ballot will be a very dangerous proposition which appears…

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    ‘Top-two’ primary no guarantee of moderation – Board Member of Election Law Journal and Editor of ballot-access.org Richard Winger

    When someone tells you that we need a top-two open primary to get more moderate politicians in office, ask them for evidence…

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    Short statement from Californians for Electoral Reform explaining our opposition to the so-called Top Two Candidates “Open Primary” Act

    On November 21, 2009, the Board of Directors of Californians for Electoral Reform (CfER) voted to oppose the so-called Top Two Candidates “Open Primary” Act that will be on the June 8, 2010 ballot. Our opposition is based on the conclusion that Top Two will limit voters’ choices, not expand them, and this is in [...]

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    Open primary won’t live up to hype – Board Member of Election Law Journal and Editor of ballot-access.org Richard Winger

    Oddly enough, the backers never seem to have looked at the experience of the two states that have actually used that system…

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    Christina Tobin on the Top-Two Primary

    So, in practice, the “top-two open primary” does not shake things up. All it does it make it easier for incumbents to get re-elected…

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    Top-two primary limits options

    Voters are advised to do their homework on the so-called “open primary” proposal sponsored by former…

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    Louisiana’s Nonpartisan Primary: Model or Travesty of Reform?

    The following report analyzes some of the electoral results and impacts of Louisiana’s nonpartisan primary. Its findings demonstrate that Louisiana’s system limits voter choices and can elect unrepresentative candidates…

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