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Nonpartisan primaries get a start in California, today

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When new redistricting maps changed the boundaries of this Congressional district to give Democrats a slight edge for the first time in decades, party loyalists were elated.

But now it seems possible that come November there will not even be a Democrat on the ballot. On Tuesday, for the first time, California voters will participate in a nonpartisan primary. Instead of the top candidate from each party advancing to the general election, the two candidates with the most votes will be placed on the November ballot, regardless of party affiliation.

This year will be the first test of a new kind of election aimed at breaking the partisan gridlock that has seized Congress and state legislatures all over the country. When the change was presented to California voters by a ballot initiative in 2010, advocates said it would usher in a new era that embraced politicians who would be more pragmatic than ideological…

A “new kind of election” is a misnomer of course. It’s just that the United States is beginning to catch up with what other nations have been doing for decades.

How the changes will play out on Election Day is still unclear. Much will depend on how many people vote and who those voters are. Many analysts expect that turnout will continue to be low and will largely consist of the party faithful, so it remains to be seen whether candidates who get the voters to the polls are simply the most partisan of the pack…

This year, voters and candidates for the first time can choose to register with “no party preference,” a category that was once referred to as “decline to state.” Voters in the primaries can pick candidates from any party…

Of course, voters who register with no party preference can vote for a major party candidate, said Allan Hoffenblum, a former Republican strategist who now publishes the nonpartisan California Target Book. He estimates that there could be close to three dozen races in which two candidates from the same party will be up against each other in November. “You could end up in situations where Republicans are such a small party now that they can’t even get to second place…”

Several critics of the primary changes argue that they will make races more expensive because the number of candidates will increase. And democracy in action scares the crap out of the two TweedleDeeDum parties.

Overdue.

I’d be willing to support a campaign to bring this system into any state in the Union. And I think folks in the middle will greet the possibilities as surely as will people like me with a cynical view of both parties from a viewpoint on the Left.

You know damned well who is going to fight tooth-and-nail to stop this. The hacks in charge of our two-party system.

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Written by Ed Campbell

June 5, 2012 at 6:00 am

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