Saturday, October 9, 2004

Our Voice: Prop. 62 reduces voters' choices, could impede turnout

The Desert Sun

Ill-conceived measure stifles debate, eliminates minor, independent candidates

t a time when every effort should be made to encourage voter participation, a cockeyed scheme -- known as Proposition 62 -- on the November ballot would in fact discourage voters.

Proposition 62 requires primary elections where voters may vote for any state or federal candidates -- regardless of party registration of voter or candidate. The two primary-election candidates receiving the most votes for an office, whether they are candidates with “no party” or members of the same or different parties, would be listed on the general election ballot.

The measure, sponsored in part by insurance companies, financial institutions and some wealthy, failed politicians who spent $2 million to get it on the ballot, is radical. It would totally eliminate California’s century-old direct primary system as we know it.

Proponents like to argue that the measure would open up California’s elections. Nice try, but it’s simply not true.

Proposition 62 will actually limit voter choice and suffocate political debate, since only the top two vote-getters -- regardless of party affiliation -- advance to the November election. In reality, members of the same party could face one another in the general election, which suppresses diverse points of view. In essence, the measure reduces choice and has the potential of decreasing voter turnout.

The other danger here is that California’s five minor party and independent candidates would likely be excluded from such a political process. Audie Bock, the only minor party candidate to be elected to the Legislature in recent years, would have been excluded from the final election.

Campaign costs would likely skyrocket because candidates would have to run in what amounts to two general elections.

The measure is patterned after the two-stage election system in the state of Louisiana, and we are all too familiar with Louisiana politics. That state is notorious for breeding candidates like David Duke, the former leader of the Ku Klux Klan. He came close -- too close for comfort -- to winning the governor’s seat.

Louisiana’s system was the brainchild of then-Democratic Gov. Edwin Edwards, who is now a convicted felon, in order to improve his re-election chances. His plan, which was put into place in 1975, eliminated the party primaries. Because of his keen fund-raising ability and name recognition, Edwards easily made the two-person runoff election and handily won re-election in the general election.

If Proposition 62’s Louisiana-style election had been used in the 2002 general election, nearly 6 million votes -- for Green, Libertarian, Reform, Natural Law and American Independent candidates -- could not have been cast, according to the California Secretary of State. And 50 different general election races would have been limited to two candidates from the same party in the past three election cycles.

Neither result is the sign of a healthy democracy. California voters deserve choices, healthy debate and diversity of opinion among candidates.

Vote for a healthy democracy. Vote “no” on Proposition 62.



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