Intro: Enhanced Democracy
In June 2010, CA voters passed a state constitutional amendment that radically democratizes some of the state's electoral processes. The measure was approved 54% to 46%. The major democratic benefit is that now all registered voters can participate in the primary election no matter what party the voter has registered in, even if he or she registers as "no party preference." The former process was a closed primary. Only voters who had registered in a qualified political party could vote for one of their party's candidates for public office in the primary. Qualified political parties included the usual Republicans and Democrats, as well as a few tiny "third parties" (Peace and Freedom, Libertarian, Green, etc).
Voters who had not registered in one of those parties, but had registered as something else, like Socialist, Constitutional Party, etc., or as independent of any party, could not vote for any primary candidate for any state partisan office, like governor, senator, assembly member; or, for any partisan federal office, like US senator or member of the House of Representatives. This was hugely discriminatory to people who did not want to affiliate with any of the qualified political parties, and California has over three million independent identifiers.
One Ballot for All
The old system was also a wasteful process. Each county government would print separate sample ballots for each qualified party, and another separate sample ballot for voters not in a qualified party. The same process would be done for absentee voters, of which there are millions. Those nonpartisan ballots would be for state and local measures, and for nonpartisan offices, like judges and School Superintendent. Voting machines would have to be programmed to bar voters from voting for a party candidate if the voter is not registered in that party. Extra work for expensive programmers, and extra costs for counties.
Under Prop 14, there is only one ballot for all voters. Candidates are listed by office. They can have their party preference follow their name, any party they choose, or they can state "no party preference." Programming voting machines will be easier, and if paper must be used for mailing out sample ballots and absentee ballots, rather than email for instance, at least having only one list will save on the costs of preparation and printing.
Before Prop 14, people who did not want to register as in one of the qualified parties just had to wait until the general election to vote, when they then had to choose from the menu the parties had given them. There was also an option to write-in a name, or get on the general election ballot by petition, but no candidate ever won that way. The qualified parties had a lock on candidate selection.
Also, independent minded people who did not like any party, but who wanted to vote for a candidate in a primary, were forced to choose between their personal integrity and their desire to participate in the election process. But now every voter is free to be himself or herself, and not be penalized for their independence. In the new system, every registered voter has an equal opportunity to vote in a California primary.
Which seems more befitting of the American ethic of fairness and individualism, the new system or the old one?
Besides liberating the voter to register as he or she wishes, and to vote in the primary without restriction, Prop 14 has some other significant consequences.
The new law concerns elections to three types of offices. The first is non-presidential state and federal offices. This includes governor, and state and federal legislative offices. Secondly, the law addresses presidential elections. And, third, it discusses specific state and local offices.