Proposition 14: Elections. Increases Right To Participate In Primary Elections.

The Question

Should the California Constitution be amended to require that all candidates for statewide or congressional office run in a single primary open to all registered voters, with only the top two vote-getters, regardless of their political party preference, advancing to the general election?

The Situation

California voters elect state and federal officials in two steps:

  • Primary Election (June)—Each party selects its nominee for each office.
  • General Election (November)—Voters choose from the party nominees, plus any independent or write-in candidates.

Voters registered with a political party vote in that party’s primary election. A political party may open its primary to “independent” voters who did not choose any party on their voter registration form. The candidate with the highest vote total in a party primary becomes that party’s nominee and competes in the general election.

The Proposal

Proposition 14 would amend the California Constitution to change primary and general elections for statewide partisan offices like Governor, plus congressional and state legislative offices. Prop 14 provides that every voter may vote in the primary election for any candidate without regard to the political party preference (if any) of either the candidate or the voter. Candidates would choose whether or not to list their party preference on the ballot. Political parties could no longer nominate a candidate, but could still endorse, support or oppose any candidate. The two candidates with the highest number of votes in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, would compete in the general election. Independent and write-in candidates would be allowed in the primary but not in the general election.

Prop 14 would not change the partisan primary elections for presidential candidates and political party committees.

Fiscal Effect

The overall change in the costs to administer elections for state and local governments would probably not be significant, although some counties might need to purchase new equipment.

A YES Vote Means

All voters would receive the same primary election ballot for most state and federal offices. For each office, only the two top vote-getters in the primary, regardless of political party preference, would advance to the general election.

A NO Vote Means

Voters would continue to receive primary election ballots based on their political party. The candidate with the most votes in each party primary would compete in the general election, along with independent and write-in candidates.

Supporters Say

  • Prop 14 gives voters a greater choice of candidates in primary elections, and gives independent voters an equal voice in these elections.
  • Prop 14 would help elect representatives who are less partisan and more practical.
  • Prop 14 would lessen the influence of the major parties, which are now under the control of special interests.

Opponents Say

  • Prop 14 reduces voter choice in the general election to only two candidates for each office, possibly both from the same party.
  • Prop 14 would help elect more moderate representatives who would be more likely to approve tax increases and unreasonable budgets.
  • Prop 14 undermines the role of political parties, which are essential to the process of democracy.

Official Contact Information

Supporters: Yes on 14—Californians for an Open Primary

Opponents: California School Employees’ Association

Related General Announcements

Updated on May 19 2010 - 5:15pm

The League of Women Voters of Cupertino-Sunnyvale produced this 30-minute video explaining the five statewide ballot measures on the June 8, 2010 Primary Election ballot, as well as the local measures in their communities.