California’s ‘Top Two’ Open Primaries: How Democratic Are They?

Photo of Betty Yee

Betty Yee

The League of Women Voters of Alameda is holding a free public forum:
Wednesday, October 19, 2015,  7:00 pm – 9:00 pm
At the  Alameda Free Library, 1550 Oak St , Alameda, CA

The topic is:  California’s ‘Top Two’ Open Primaries: How Democratic Are They?
State Controller Betty Yee will lead a panel discussion on  the benefits and drawbacks of allowing voters to cross party lines in primary elections.

State Controller Betty Yee is the keynote speaker. She currently serves as California’s “Chief Financial Officer,” and represented northern and central California on the Board of Equalization before being elected Controller in 2014. Yee earned her master’s degree in Public Administration from Golden Gate University in San Francisco and is an Alameda resident.
Jennifer Hidalgo Ong owns a family vision care practice in Alameda, and is active in East Bay efforts to provide health care, support women and familes, prevent human trafficking, and protect the environment. Dr. Ong ran for the 20th Assembly District seat in 2012 as a Democrat and is a member and past President of the League of Women Voters of the Eden Area. She has earned degrees from both UC Berkeley and Cal State East Bay. Ong is fluent in Tagalog, Spanish, and English.
Arrangements to schedule additional panelists are pending.
Moderator Anne Spanier is a long-time member of the League of Women Voters and an election reform activist. She currently serves as Co-president of the LWVA with Alice Fried and is spearheading the pending LWVA study of California’s open primary system.

About California’s Open Primaries
California’s open primary election system was adopted by the voters in June 2010 and first used in June 2012. Under it, political parties no longer nominate a candidate from their party.

According to the League of Women Voters of California, “In a statewide primary, California now has a Top Two Open Primary system, which means that all candidates running for state constitutional, U.S. Congressional, and state legislative offices will be listed on a single statewide primary election ballot. Voters can vote for the candidate of their choice for these offices, regardless of how they are registered. The top two candidates, as determined by the voters, will advance to the general election in November.”

Candidates may list a “party preference” on the ballot, but, regardless of party affiliation, the two candidates with the most votes advance to the General election. Write-in candidates may enter the primary, but do not progress to the General election unless they achieve one of the top two vote totals in the primary. In this system, two Democrats or two Republicans are sometimes the top vote getters in some districts. (In the local 2012 General election, two Democrats faced off for the Assembly District 18 seat: Alamedan Rob Bonta was elected.) Presidential primary candidates or delegates are still elected by party affiliation, however.

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