Election reform: opening up the primaries in California

The latest installment of my series of opinion columns on election reform came out this morning, a call for the development of open primaries in California.

Here is the basic argument:

But we can return to a truly open primary in ways that will withstand legal challenge. One possibility is to again let voters cast ballots for all candidates running for office, regardless of their party, in most contests. But the two top-vote getters from the primary – no matter their party label – would face off in the fall general election. Such a system, if it did not apply to presidential races or party central committee offices, should pass constitutional muster.

But we now have an opportunity to revisit primary election reform. It turns out that two of the three main candidates running for governor (Democratic candidate Steve Westly and Republican Arnold Schwarzenegger) supported this type of open primary reform.

So we need to ask our gubernatorial candidates what they will to do fix our ailing electoral system and to make sure they continue to support opening up our primaries, even if it is contrary to the interests of the entrenched party elite.

Better yet, Westly and Schwarzenegger should push the Legislature to pass serious election reform this year, including opening up the primaries. Voters need real choices in primary elections, and we must reform the primary process to reduce the extreme polarization of our state’s politics.