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Sunday, August 9, 2009

LPSF: Top-Two Primary Equals Closed General Election

From the LPSF blog, a letter to the editor:

In June 2010, the voters of California will be voting on State Senator Abel Maldonado's ballot measure to restructure federal and state elections in California. We request in articles about the Maldonado ballot initiative your stories refer to it as the "top-two" election proposal, not the "open primary" proposal.

The Maldonado system is not an open primary. Political science textbooks have defined "open primary" for over 100 years to be a system in which each party has its own primary. However, the voters are free on primary election day to decide which party's primary ballot to use.


Generally open primaries are popular and the voters of those states like them. Twenty-one states use open primaries:  Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Vermont, Virginia and Wisconsin.

The Maldonado proposal is very different. It abolishes nominations by political parties and confines the general election to only two candidates. Supporters of the Maldonado idea want the press to refer to their idea as "the open primary".

Courts have blocked the use of that terminology for that system in the past. Three times, the voters of some states have voted on the Maldonado proposal.  Never in those three instances did a state refer to the Maldonado system as an "open primary" in its ballot description.

The Supreme Court of Oregon and a Superior Court in California both ruled that it would be misleading for the ballot to describe the idea as an "open primary". This is why that term did not appear on the ballot in those states.  In Washington State, the proponents of the idea did not even try to describe it as an "open primary."

Describing the ballot initiative as the "top-two" primary is more acceptable as defined by the courts. We would appreciate it if you referred to this initiative as the “top-two” primary or as a top California Democrat classified it as the "closed" general election.

Rob Power, Chair
Ron Getty, Vice Chair
Francoise Fielding, Secretary
Marcy Berry, Treasurer
Libertarian Party of San Francisco

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