The Primary is Now More Important than the Election

California just changed the election process so that the primary election (being held June 4th) is now more important than the election election (held this coming November).

“Huh?” I hear you say.

Here’s a good description from the California Secretary of State Debra Bowen

What is a voter-nominated office?

The  Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act, which took effect January 1, 2011, created “voter-nominated” offices. The Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act does not apply to candidates running for U.S. President, county central committees, or local offices.

Most of the offices that were previously known as “partisan” are now known as “voter-nominated” offices. Voter-nominated offices are state constitutional offices, state legislative offices, and U.S. congressional offices. The only “partisan offices” now are the offices of U.S. President and county central committee.

How are primary elections conducted in California?

All candidates for voter-nominated offices are listed on one ballot and only the top two vote-getters in the primary election — regardless of party preference – move on to the general election. A write-in candidate will only move on to the general election if the candidate is one of the top two vote-getters in the primary election.

(read more)
That’s weird. We’ll see how that goes. Maybe it’ll work out fine.


  1. Free says:

    I wouldn’t say that the primary is more important than the general election. The general election is, after all, the one that decides which of the two most popular candidates actually gets to serve. And coming in second in politics gets you precisely nowhere.

    At the same time, it sounds like California has more or less eliminated the two-party system within California. In the primary election, a Democrat for example would be running against Republicans and independents as well as other Democrats.

    I’m not wild about the new system. Experience in other places suggests that the people who then win primaries will often be single-issue candidates who can attract only a minority of voters. For example, if you have the “California should secede from the country” candidate who can win only 5% of the vote, that candidate would never win in a party primary. However, if you have a large field of Democrats and Republicans, you could end up in a situation in which 5% of the vote is enough to win one of the two top spots in the general election. And if you have two candidates like that, the general election could end up being a choice between two completely whacko candidates.

    The two-party system, for all its defects, tends to reduce the likelihood of totally whacko candidates in the general election if only because neither party wants to put up a candidate so far out of the mainstream that s/he will lose the general election. But for splinter third parties (which may consist entirely of one whacko candidate), that’s not an issue.

  2. lee says:

    Free, all very good points. And actually, I like your point that the two-party system is denied privilige with this new eletion system. I railed on the two-party system back in 2005 on my blog.

    And crazy enough, there are a lot of candidates going in to the election, just the thing to divide the vote among Democrats and Republicans. We’ll see!

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