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Daily Kos Publishes Detailed Analysis of How California’s Top-two System Has Worked

Paul Hogarth has this detailed analysis of how California’s top-two system has worked in both 2012 and 2014. It appears at Daily Kos, and the impetus for the analysis was the New York Times op-ed by U.S. Senator Charles Schumer that ran on Tuesday, July 22.

Hogarth does not mention these factual errors in Senator Schumer’s piece: (1) Schumer refers to the November election as a “runoff”, but federal law since 1872 has required that the election itself (for Congress) be in November, and if states want congressional runoffs, they must be later than that; (2) Schumer says most states don’t let independent voters vote in Democratic and Republican primaries, but only 15 states don’t let independents vote in Democratic congressional primaries, and only 19 states don’t let them vote in Republican congressional primaries. Schumer also deplores the 2014 Republican primary in Virginia than unseated Congressman Eric Cantor, but Schumer doesn’t seem to know that Virginia has open primaries.

6 Responses

  1. Demo Rep

    The top 2 stuff is one more distraction from the EVIL and VICIOUS ANTI-Democracy minority rule pack/crack gerrymanders (political concentration camps) that exist in the USA.

    1/2 votes x 1/2 gerrymander areas = 1/4 CONTROL = OLIGARCHY.

    The CA gerrymander disricts were all rigged by the CA gerrymander commission with its top secret hidded Donkey agents.

    NO primaries.
    P.R. and nonpartisan App.V.

  2. Demo Rep

    typo — hidden

    How about having Sen. S. call for the abolishment of the EVIL and VICIOUS ANTI-Democracy minority rule USA Senate ???

  3. Jim Riley

    Only Louisiana, Washington, and California permit any voter to vote for their candidate of choice in the primary (first) election.

    If what you claim about congressional elections were true, wouldn’t someone from Washington or California challenge the implementation?

    When the 1872 law was passed, there were not government-printed ballots (the 1872 law did require use of paper ballots), there were no state-sponsored primaries, and there were no runoffs.

    Any sort of state-sponsored preliminary election was likely not what Congress had in mind. Senator Schumer was co-author of the bill that required ballots be sent overseas 45 days before the election date, in effect letting some voters vote any time between September and November.

    In AD-4 a supervisor from Napa County piled up 46.5% of the vote in that county. That is why he advanced. Its pretty silly to claim that Republicans chose the Democrat’s candidate. Hogarth used vote totals that were only 2/3 complete.

  4. Lee Mortimer

    I agree Sen. Schumer was pretty sloppy with his “facts” about “closed primaries.” And when he mentioned the “pernicious effects of winner-take-all primaries,” I wanted to scream out — “What about the pernicious effects of winner-take-all general elections”?

    But I’m glad some influential legislators are floating the idea of reforming the primary system. Whether top-two has done anything to reduce polarization is debatable. I still think it’s more a factor of the primary being held too early to attract more moderate voters.

    The big advantage of having the discussion is the possibility that “open primaries” could evolve to a “two-round” election system, which seems to function very well in France. Ten to 12 candidates (and parties) run in the first round, and the top two vote-getters face off two weeks later. In the last two French presidential elections, there was no drop-off in turnout from the first to the second rounds.

    In America, a first-round presidential vote could be held shortly after Labor Day with the second round in November. The French seem to have a good idea that America could benefit from.

    • Richard Winger

      There are two important distinctions between French presidential elections and the California-Washington top-two, in addition to your point about the short time interval. In France, the first round IS an election. Someone can be elected at it, and Charles De Gaulle was elected in the first round when he got over 50%. Second, in France, a party label on the ballot means that party did nominate that candidate. That is not the case in top-two systems.

      Also it is worth nothing that France does not use its presidential system for any other office.

      • Lee Mortimer

        Thanks for weighing in, Richard. I’m not saying we have to adopt the French system in every detail. I’m saying we use it as a framework and adapt it to our requirements.

        We could require that every election have a November second round, even if one candidate wins a majority in the first round. I know that French parliamentary elections are a little different from the presidential. Again, we use the 2-round framework, and it should work perfectly well for legislative, congressional and U.S. Senate elections.

        Yes, there are procedures that French political parties use to nominate their candidates. But a system that encourages the formation of more parties (as this does) would dissipate those “pernicious effects” that Sen. Schumer cites in our primary system. As Michael Lind wrote in Salon July 2, “The Tea Party would be a real political party. It would not be stuck in a loveless marriage” with the Republican Party.

        We have a precedent for the 2-round system in non-partisan municipal elections. Durham, NC where I live holds a “primary” in October and the “election” in November. The only real obstacle to a shortened presidential interval would be Democrats and Republicans clinging to their pre-Labor Day televised infomercial extravaganzas disguised as a nominating convention.

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