Senate

The Unsurprising Outcome of California's Top-Two Senate Race: Fewer Likely Votes

Are races truly 'more competitive' when people are less inclined to cast ballots?

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Harris and Sanchez
A.G. Office Photo/Congressional Photo

What do you know? A huge chunk of Californians, when faced with a choice between two candidates who don't represent their political positions, and only those two candidates, are inclined to just not vote.

That is the outcome predicted in a new poll released by the Public Policy Institute of California. California voters in 2012 approved a shift two a top-two primary system for legislative positions and statewide elections. What it means is that in these races, primary voters get to choose among all candidates in all parties. The top two finishers in the primary, regardless of party affiliation, will go head-to-head in the November election.

This means that voters could be asked to choose between two candidates within the same party as their only options. This is a feature, not a bug. The argument for such a system is that it would require candidates to adjust their message to suit those who aren't part of their base constituencies and thus moderate candidate positions and make races more competitive.

Instead, people outside the party say they're less inclined to actually vote in these races at all.

The poll looks at the upcoming race to replace retiring Democrat Barbara Boxer in the United States Senate. Because of this top-two primary system, voters are left with two Democrats, Attorney General Kamala Harris and Rep. Loretta Sanchez.

There's little to suggest in the issues sections of the two candidates' web sites that they're looking to moderate their positions in any meaningful way to appeal to non-leftists. Sanchez seems maybe a little more moderate (perhaps because she simply says a lot less and doesn't promise nearly as many policies as Harris does). Sanchez is also reportedly upset that the Democratic establishment is not supporting her, not exactly an indication of a rush to appeal to non-partisans.

As a result, 50 percent of likely Republican voters in California say they're probably not going to vote for either candidate, the Los Angeles Times notes. Another 19 percent say they're undecided. Altogether, the survey reported that more than a quarter of all voters, 28 percent, did not support either candidate.

As I noted when reporting on the outcome of the primary, participation in California's elections has plunged to record lows, particularly in the primaries, where citizens votes matter most under this system. Estimates do show a big jump (49 percent of voters cast ballots) in 2016 compared to 2012 (31 percent) in primary vote participation. Keep in mind Bernie Sanders was still in the race at this point, while Trump had already clinched his delegate threshold, giving Republicans less of a reason to vote in the primary. And those primary participation numbers are most certainly going to be much lower than the general election numbers in November.

The outcome of this "more competitive" system is fewer votes? How does that make any sense, and is that truly healthier for a democratic republic than an election between two candidates on opposite sides of the political spectrum?

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  1. Honestly, I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t even be able to tell those two apart if you put them on the stage next to one another. I mean, does one have a noticeably large bust size? Because they’re like clones to me. It’s like a bad parody of Futurama.

    1. Loretta Sanchez’s 3 cent titanium tax goes too far.

    2. Here’s the difference: would, wouldn’t.

    3. Then what would be the difference if a Republican had run against either of them in the runoff? Surely if each of them beat the Republican separately already, they’d do so even more the 2nd time. Was the GOP vote split among several?

  2. So you can choose to vote for, but only one party is represented?

    Man, I feel like that’s been tried somewhere before, just can’t put my finger on it…

    1. It’s almost like this was the desired outcome, not the “more competitive” hooey they were going on about. Nah, that’s just crazy talk.

    2. It’s pretty clear that the only possible result in the State of California would be to completely disenfranchise Republicans, but I’m sure that’s not the case because only Republicans disenfranchise people. Right?

      1. Eh, maybe not completely disenfranchise. Arguably it could go a lot of different ways, but my guess is that the Democrats just wanted to be able to field two candidates on occasion. *shrug*

        They own the state, rather like how the Republicans own Texas. It’s just the way it is.

    3. It’s just a different way of doing the election. The trouble is that people are still thinking of it in terms of primary, then general. Actually it’s general, then runoff. They just call them primary, then general.

    4. It’s called Chicago.

  3. Would, would.

    1. What happened to “don’t stick it in crazy”?

      1. Did the ladies say that about Scotticus?

  4. The argument for such a system is that it would require candidates to adjust their message to suit those who aren’t part of their base constituencies and thus moderate candidate positions and make races more competitive.

    Instead, people outside the party say they’re less inclined to actually vote in these races at all.

    Because you don’t need support from a majority of people, you just need the majority of votes. In a general election between two politicians from the same party, those two are not going to try to woo voters from the “other side” because they don’t need those votes to win.

    1. Disagree. I live in CA and we had this happen for my local assemblyman. He’s a dem running against a dem and won because the other guy was too left. Repubs mainly voted for him which made the difference.
      Imagine being “too left” in Marin County? Yikes!
      Of course he’s now an untouchable incumbent so he came up with one of the fucked up gun laws that Flush it down, Jerry Brown signed, AB 1663.

    2. The argument for such a system is that it would require candidates to adjust their message to suit those who aren’t part of their base constituencies and thus moderate candidate positions and make races more competitive.

      Unfortunately, while it might give the talking heads a few more points during the election, “adjusting messages” means diddly squat once the winners take office and revert to their actual positions.

  5. The one on the left I’m pretty sure is a dude.

    1. Our left or your left?

      1. They’re both on the Left.

  6. Instead, people outside the party say they’re less inclined to actually vote in these races at all.

    We have the same thing here. Before, there were no non-democrats in office, now, there are no non-democrats in office.

    All it seems to do is just further cement the majority in place. I’ve yet to see a top-two primary system even suggested where there are competitive inter-party races.

    1. It is so transparently designed to perpetuate a single-party state that I can’t believe it hasn’t been tried here in NY yet. Oh wait, it’s because the Dems don’t control both houses. Yet.

      1. It was proposed in NYC ~15 yrs. ago as a charter amendment. It lost.

      2. Actually, it was written by a Republican and supported by a Republican governor.

      3. Washington State is a better example, for decades. They also have no partisan registration which helps.

    2. I was honestly hoping that it would have meant that the shitbags would have to defend their seat in November, rather than enjoy 30 year terms because voters just blindly pulling the lever marked D. I was wrong, but I don’t know that the old system was any better. Was it really any better when Team Red ran a snowball-chance-in-hell campaign in a deep blue district? McDermott’s seat ain’t changing parties anytime soon. But perhaps a shitty D will run against a less shitty D.

      1. But perhaps a shitty D will run against a less shitty D.

        That’s what primaries are for.

        This probably won’t preserve many seats for the Dems, on account of those seats weren’t at risk anyway, but it does a fine job of further marginalizing anyone who isn’t a Dem. It guarantees one-party elections (essentially, the general is now a primary runoff) in districts that aren’t pretty closely split.

        1. Well hold on now. If there were a district that was 2/3 D and 1/3 R, and the Republicans only ran one candidate in the primary and the Dems ran two or more, the Republican could get to the general (and lose).

          1. Oh good. You know the simple math which most folks here have missed.
            The only way for only two of either party to be on the ballot is … nobody in the opposing party bothered filing. Guess why.

            1. Except there were about 20 people on the ballot (like 4 libertarians, 3 republicans, a couple of greens, whatever). So, you have multiple people from each party and you have to have raised all of your money and done all of your campaigning by May. This favors only incumbents and those that are already part of the political machine because it’s about existing name recognition.

              Forget the part about how many people, including those who make a point to vote in primaries, didn’t understand this system and all but the Dems had decided their nominees before California votes. It’s all about maintaining one party, establishment rule.

              1. So… how is that different from normal primaries?
                The only difference is that instead of partisan primaries, where the final names on the ballot are based on the letter after your name, the final names on the ballot are based on who the voters actually, y’know, voted for.

                Also, it doesn’t apply to the presidential primaries. And was written by a Republican and approved by a Republican governor.

      2. Yes, it’s different because before there was another party on the ticket. Now, there is not. See the difference? I know, in California is kind of subtitle, but it’s there. Right there in your face. Giving you the finger.

        1. Yes, it’s different because before there was another party on the ticket. Now, there is not.

          By choice. Or does the other party REFUSE to contest a race they could win.

  7. I’m not entirely sure that CA’s system does not ensure the same result that an “instant runoff” system would, or, indeed, what the French presidential system would.

    In other words, I don’t think that California could adopt a voting system that could produce a winner who would be acceptable to libertarians.

    In the end, Californians (or, at least, the ones who live in the population centers of the state) want these people. The only solution is to sever the less populated counties from the state and create a new one. 🙂

    1. In my limited experience, the top-two primary system seems to cause candidates to de-modulate their message. Once the chance that only a Democrat will win, they start ramping up the crazy– precisely because the non-democrats stay home.

      1. Exactly. Instead of having to broaden/moderate for the general, they now are in a primary runoff. And primaries are won by energizing the base, meaning, ramping up on your red-meat partisanship.

        1. What reason did they have before to broaden or moderate for the general election, when their party was so dominant?

    2. What we really need is a long series of runoffs. Only one candidate gets eliminated with each vote. Then by the time the final vote rolls around, everyone is so sick of it that everyone writes in “Kodos/Kang” and everyone’s a winner.

  8. Why not just go with pistols at 20 paces?

  9. There is only one Kamala and I’m pretty sure he doesn’t look like those pictures.

    1. Did someone photoshop in the face paint?

  10. It’s a battle of dumb (Sanchez) versus evil (Harris). Always bet on evil.

  11. Why don’t they just do what normal people do and vote for the more attractive one. I pick the one on the left (my left).

    But seriously, this is one of those things that seems like a great idea in lots of ways. At least if you think democracy is a good thing, it’s hard to justify why a political party should get automatic ballot access for exactly one candidate.

    I would be interested to know how such a system would work in a state that isn’t so dominated by one party.

    1. I would be interested to know how such a system would work in a state that isn’t so dominated by one party.
      I imagine it would be like what you see in California’s congressional races. Most got a Democrat and Republican in the top-two, with only a few districts that will have two democrats (including one district where a democrat ran unchallenged by anyone).

      1. Except the question is about state-wide races, such as this one.

        1. Well, I suppose in more evenly divided states, the first and second finishers in the primary are likely to be one from each party, even state wide.

          My main issue here is that I’ve always thought that the states running party functions like primaries stunk. I get why having two dominant parties is probably inevitable in our system. But that doesn’t mean they have to be officially institutionalized like they are.

          1. This, to my mind, this goes the “other way” and institutionalizes the nonsensical notion of “non-partisanship”, as though people stop having common opinions and affiliations if you just clap your hands and believe. The end result is a system no less subject to capture than an explicitly partisan one.

            But I agree, party functions like primaries should be up to the parties to conduct.

          2. “But that doesn’t mean they have to be officially institutionalized like they are.” In California they are so institutionalized that the party’s bylaws are put into the state’s election code. The bylaws of a private organization are part of the laws of California.

        2. So look at District 8, it’s bigger then Wyoming.

          1. … that doesn’t provide a meaningful comparison in any way

            1. Then you aren’t looking for a comparison, you’re looking for an example.

      2. So, probably doesn’t make much difference. And honestly, in districts where the Democrat is always going to win, why shouldn’t there be a choice between two Democrats (or whatever) in the general election rather than having the real election in the primary?

        On balance I think I might like the open primary/runoff kind of system. I’ve never liked how the parties, which are essentially private clubs in many ways, control so much of the election system.

        1. And honestly, in districts where the Democrat is always going to win, why shouldn’t there be a choice between two Democrats (or whatever) in the general election rather than having the real election in the primary?

          Because it enshrines and reinforces that dominance. For just the reason set forth here. People who don’t agree with the major party stay home. At least if there is a meaningful choice, people can vote for an alternative, no matter how unlikely. If you that’s not an option, you don’t vote.

          1. Good point. Perhaps making it easier for candidates without the official sanction of their parties to get on the ballot would be better. Then if two from one party were the most popular, they could both be in the general, but others could still be represented.

      3. I would be interested to know how such a system would work in a state that isn’t so dominated by one party

        Washington State where, I believe the concept started. no partisan registration, cross-party voting, but each party is in the general (including minor parties). They still have nonpartisan primaries, and primary voters have the same options (and power) as in a Top-Two system.

    2. On your left ?

      Are you standing in front of the candidates or in front ?

      Just to be clear.

  12. Come on, it’s California. A Democrat is going to win a statewide race, period. This lets the dominant party fight amongst themselves a bit more is all. It probably save money not having to store all those extra candidate names in a database too.

  13. I don’t think this is a bad system and here is why. It is rare for a place as large as a state to have 2/3 majority of a single party. Consider the possible outcomes for a Democratic state like CA.

    1. Lots of Dems and Reps vote. If the Rep is at all viable, she will be one of the top 2 vote-getters and the general election will be a Dem vs Rep. This should be the normal case.

    2. Lots of Dems vote, few Reps vote. If the Reps don’t care enough or can’t get 33% of the vote then it makes to choose from 2 Dems. At least there is a choice instead of a foregone conclusion.

    3. Lot of Reps vote, few Dems vote. Maybe the Dems get complacent. If the Reps can get 2 good candidates, they can lock out the general election and actually get someone into office. I agree with Zeb, why should a very weak party have an automatic slot in the general election?

    4. Very poor voter turnout. Well this is a chance for the weakest party to get one or two candidates on the final ballot by nominating some exciting candidates and getting out the vote.

    1. Well this is a chance for the weakest party to get one or two candidates on the final ballot by nominating some exciting candidates and getting out the vote.

      … unless the ballot access rules have been significantly loosened as well, this is not an improvement over the current system, where every party (with ballot access) gets to put its candidate on the final ballot.

      1. Actually, yes, from what I recall the signature requirements for most offices were very much lowered.

        1. Ok, fair enough.

          But then why not just have the “primary” election on general election day and skip the stupid “top-two” bullshit unless a runoff is necessary? Let more candidates on the ballot and dispense with the silly games.

          1. That was considered too, i.e. a derby-style nonpartisan plurality election. The objection was that when there was a large number of candidates, many voters could have been said to have been deprived of a meaningful choice in the final outcome if, say, somebody own with 15%, having beaten out a candidate with 14%.

            1. The objection was that when there was a large number of candidates, many voters could have been said to have been deprived of a meaningful choice in the final outcome if, say, somebody own with 15%, having beaten out a candidate with 14%.

              Instead just pick the 15 and 14 and hope that the other 71% of voters consider those choices good enough? There’s no perfect system, but this is just shitty.

              1. Well at least they’d add up to 29%. Seems significantly better to me.

  14. Does the top-two make things less competitive? Hrm… from the New York Times:

    For the senate seat the totals are (in descending order)
    Kamala Harris 404%
    Loretta Sanchez 18.6%
    Duf Sundheim 8.0%
    Phil Wyman 4.9%
    Thomas Del Beccaro 4.2%
    Greg Conlon 3.2%
    “Others” (all scoring less then Mr. Conlon) 20.9% total
    The two Libertarian candidates got 1.3% (Gail Lightfoot) and 0.5% (Mark Herd)

    The top four Republican nominiees got 20.3%.

    Seeing as California is overwhelmign Democrat, this shouldn’t be surprising. But lets look at other races.

    A Republican and Democrat are the top-two:
    Districts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 15, 16, 18, 20, 22, 23, 25, 26, 27, 28, 30, 31, 36, 38, 42, 43, , 45, 46, 47, 48, 49, 50, 51, 52

    Both top-two are Democrats
    District 14 (uncontested), 17, 44

    Weirdness (results are weird. Either vote results are showing “0” accross the board, or only one person is indicated to be proceeding. Not sure what to make of these)
    District 8, 19, 21, 24, 29, 32,33, 34, 35, 37, 39, 40, 41, 53

    Every single district where Republicans did not make the top-two (including the “weird” districts), they also didn’t break 10%. Why am I supposed to be upset over this?

    1. What was the turnout on primary day?

      1. For which race? Statewide, 5,082,928 votes were counted for the senate race. Individual districts ranged from ~50,000 to ~150,000. Not counting the districts that were showing no votes for some reason.

        1. So, not anywhere near what the turnout will be in November? What a giant shell game.

          1. I thought the libertarian philosophy was that it wasn’t the role of the government to protect people from their own dumb decisions.

            If people choose not to vote, that’s not the fault of the system, it’s their own damn fault.

            1. … “the system” being whatever was flung against the wall this week and stuck.

              If the position of U.S. Senator was powerless over others, then you might have a point with your concern-troll schtick.

              The libertarian position is not “fuck you, do what I tell you because you didn’t show up to vote”.

              1. If by “flung against the wall this week” you mean “written by a Republican six years ago, endorsed by a Republican governor, passed a bipartisan state legislature and then affirmed by ballot measure”, then sure.

                1. Alright, fine. So mandatory voter ID is kosher, right? It’s your own damn fault if you can’t get an ID for election day, yes?

                  1. My problem with mandatory ID has never been the concept, it’s been the implementation.

                    Too close to an election, no budget or effort to make sure voters knew it was coming, purging voter rolls with known-bad lists, doing said purges so close to the election that the “you’ve been purged” notices reach people after the deadline to register, shortening voting hours in areas that have lines around the block every friggin’ year, and so-on?

                    If you want to pass a kosher mandatory-ID law that doesn’t stink of voter suppression, that’s a list of things not to do.

                    In short: my opposition to voter ID laws are all on a practical level, not a conceptual level.

                    California’s election law? It ticked every box in “how to change your state-wide election law correctly”. Written by the minority party, supported by the governor, approved by the legislature, and approved again by the electorate. Every election it’s got dozens of articles explaining how it works, lots of outreach by the state government making sure people understand how California differents from a typical “first past the post” system.

                    This wasn’t the fly-by-night, nakedly partisan attempt at voter suppression you’re trying to cast it as. You may not like it, and no one is saying you have to, but it’s not the villain you and Shackford think it is.

                    1. That’s all fine and dandy but doesn’t address any of the actual criticisms being leveled. I don’t care how the stupid idea came to be, I take issue with the stupid idea itself.

                      And your description of voter ID laws reads like a caricature of left-wing talking points. The question is about showing ID on voting day, not alleged back-room shenanigans.

      1. Typo.

      2. Percentage not found.

  15. So, this is basically just a way to make sure no Republican is ever able to gain office in California under any circumstances? Cool. I guess it makes total sense they would want two Democrats every time, but damn. That goes way beyond simple gerrymandering.

    1. Eh, if the Democrats were a little more divided and the Republicans a lot more unified, there would have been a Republican on the final ballot. It doesn’t guarantee one-party rule, but it does seem to encourage it.

      1. It encourages one-party rule where one of the parties is incompetent… which pretty well describes the California Republican Party these days.

      2. True enough, all told. It’s just a bizarre thing to do. Then again, it is California.

        1. As you can see, it has its apologists. And defenders, too.

          Although I must admit, the “it doesn’t matter anyway” defense is a bit rich. Then why do it?

          1. If you are talking about me, I’m really just idly theorizing about election systems. I haven’t given it a ton of thought and am just sort of thinking as I go. Beyond not liking the state running party functions, I don’t have a terribly strong opinion.

            1. I wasn’t referring to you, Zeb.

    2. You know that Kevin McCarthy, who last fall was hot-to-trot for the House Speaker before he screwed it up, is from California, right?

      If the plan is to make sure that no Republican is ever able to gain office in California, it’s failing. All it’s doing is that in races where Republican’s aren’t competitive they aren’t given a pity-slot on the ballot.

      1. where Republican’s aren’t competitive they aren’t given a pity-slot on the ballot

        Jeez, don’t rip the mask off quite so quickly. You’re supposed to pretend that this is about fairer representation, not reveal that it’s just a game where the points don’t matter.

        1. … I think you’re agreeing with me? I can’t tell.

          1. I’m restating your position as an endorsement of political monoculture.

            If it looks like I’m agreeing with you, that’s because you missed the sarcasm.

            1. I think giving Duf Sundheim, who came in third places in “points”, a spot on the November ballot would be a case of “points don’t matter”, not giving the spots to whoever gets the highest points regardless of what letter they have after their name.

              That’s not an “endorsement” of anything, that’s just reality.

              1. The “spot” is the office. Not the slots on the ballot. There is not some immutable truth underlying all of this which you can appeal to as “reality”. It’s a poll of people’s opinions, not a sample of a natural phenomenon.

                Maybe the ballot needs to be expanded, so that both Harris and Sanchez can appear alongside the other party’s candidates. But nothing you’ve said justifies shrinking it as has been done.

  16. This is a stupid solution to the problem.

    A better one would be to allow for top-two auto-runoff ballots. Or to allow some form of proportional representation voting for the state’s congressional delegation. But both of these solutions would weaken the power of the two major parties so, of course, it’ll never happen.

    1. Re: Proportional Representation
      Unfortunately, that’s not currently an option. See Federal law, 2 USC 2c. And when you look into it, you find that it was in response to suppression efforts in the south, so it might be hard to undo legislatively.

      1. And when you look into it, you find that it was in response to suppression efforts in the south, so it might be hard to undo legislatively.

        While the latter is probably true, and the former was no doubt the stated reason, the more I look at the reasoning behind these laws (and related court cases), the more I find people behind them basically saying “this is what we’ve wanted to do; the racists in the South give us the excuse to do it”.

        1. The idea of district representation is that a voter have a single person whose election they can be said to have affected, so more reason for the rep to be responsive to the district’s voters.

          1. How responsive is a representative I didn’t vote for going to be? I don’t necessarily think proportional representation is better, but the district system we have is a joke. A lot of Congressional districts are formed from otherwise disjoint regions connected by narrow strips. Nothing represents me quite like a majority of voters who live nowhere near me.

            1. It’s a secret ballot. The rep doesn’t know who you voted for.

              1. I wrote three additional sentences of context so you’ve got no excuse for being that obtuse.

                1. I didn’t mean to address that point, because it seemed entirely separate from the issue of whether someone you didn’t vote for acknowledges your constituency. How are those issues connected?

                  1. Ok, sorry. I’m being a bit testy.

                    Let’s say there’s a district that contains two distinct regions. One of those regions has more people who are inclined to vote a certain way, the other region has fewer people who are inclined to vote a different way.

                    The representative is not going to be responsive to the residents of the second region because he doesn’t need their votes to win. He will not know for sure that I, as a resident of that region, did not vote for him, but he can assume as much since it won’t matter anyway.

                    Now, you might say, well that’s just the way your district is. But let’s suppose there are 4 neighboring districts in my state that are all similarly structured. So Party A gets its candidates elected in 5 districts while Party B gets its candidates elected in 0 districts. But if you redrew the districts to cover the same areas and people, you might get a 4-1 or 3-2 split, instead.

                    This is, of course, fairly coarse. While Party B might represent me better than Party A, I might really align with Party C which isn’t going to win in any district no matter how they’re drawn. Still, I’d rather have Party B than Party A, or I might prefer position X to position Y, or what have you, but nevertheless, the district system doesn’t deliver effective representation for me.

            2. Well, some real rules against gerrymandering would be nice. It is a bit of a joke the way it’s done now. There should just be some simple rule for drawing districts that doesn’t take demographics into account.
              Not sure if that would completely address your concerns, but that’s another thing that pisses me off about how elections work. How is that not a huge outrage?

              1. It would help to have the districts be drawn in more “neutral” ways, especially if those ways are also predictable. As it is, the redrawing of districts every 10 years following a census makes it hard to “stay” in a district and have consistent representation given the way they’re currently drawn.

                One thing that I will agree with JFree, who hasn’t appeared much lately, about is that Congressional districts should be smaller. The number of Representatives has been fixed at 435 for over a century yet the population has increased threefold since then. The UK has more MPs than we have Representatives for a much smaller population.

                1. Yeah, what was it originally, like 30,000 people per representative? And now it’s over .5 million.

                  10,000 representatives might be a bit much, but it would certainly be a lot more representative if there were more.

              2. Why not more outrage? Because it’s complicated, messy, required, and difficult to separate the good-faith efforts from the bad-faith efforts (is packing black people from all over the state into one or two districts an effort to reduce their ability to influence politics, or an effort to make sure they have at least one or two shots at getting a representative they actually like?)

                To put it simply, it’s a technical problem with complicated solutions, and if you can’t reduce it to a sound bite it’s hard to get people to care.

                1. And yet California was able pass this dumbfuck of an idea.

              3. Gerrymandering was originally designed to ensure that black areas had representation.

                Like most laws the unintended consequences have arisen.

  17. Based on looks I’d go for Harris. She looks very nice in a leather skirt. However, politically she’s awful. I’m writing my own name on the ballot for this race.

  18. Sounds like this makes ballot access irrelevant? That each open position has exactly two and only two candidates?

    I’m asking here, I don’t know.

    If so, then this is probably more damaging to third parties than to either of the Big Two.

    And that may have been the plan all along – to keep the insurgents (Libertarains, Greens, whoever) off the ballot altogether.

    1. There were 34 people on the ballot for the senate seat (including two Libertarians, someone from the Green party, a “Peace and Freedom” party man, and eleven “no party preference”). If this is supposed to keep third parties off the ballot, it doesn’t seem to be working.

      1. No, there will only be 2 people on the ballot. How many people were on the primary ballot is kind of irrelevant since that ballot doesn’t put you in office, now does it?

        1. That’s like saying that a general election is irrelevant if there’s a run-off. Does the fact that there was another election afterwards to further winnow the results mean that you didn’t have a fair chance?

          1. Runoff elections are only held in certain circumstances. People go into the general election intending to select the candidate they want to have hold the office. They don’t expect a runoff, unless that’s become a common occurrence for some reason.

            And it’s not about the candidate’s chances, it’s about the representation of the voters. Again, you talk about it like it’s just a game for politicians to play, not a system of representation for the people.

            1. Kamala Harris got 2,051,048 votes.
              Loretta Sanchez got 943,002 votes.
              Duf Sundheim got 406,964 votes.

              Putting Harris and Sundheim on the ballot “represents” 2,458,012 votes.
              Putting Harris and Sanchez on the ballot “represents” 2,994,050 votes.

              Why would Sundheim on the ballot be more “representation for the people”?

              1. Because it’s not about the candidate who wins. It’s about the people being able to vote for who they want to represent them, even if that person doesn’t win.

                And whoever wins is going to get a lot more than 3,000,000 votes. The numbers in the primary represent the primary voters. The general election voters are a different (but not completely distinct) group of people.

                1. Because it’s not about the candidate who wins. It’s about the people being able to vote for who they want to represent them, even if that person doesn’t win.
                  So like I said earlier: you think “the points don’t matter”. You want Republicans to get a participation trophy regardless of performance.

                  1. Jesus Christ are you a hack. It’s not about THE CANDIDATES it’s about THE VOTERS. You know, what our government is allegedly of, by, and for?

                    1. Voters spoke: Harris – 40.4%, Sanchez – 18.6%, Sundheim – 8.0%.

                    2. Now you’re just being dense.

                    3. Kind of you to notice. I think the weight lifting is paying off nicely, though I was kind of surprised at how hard it is to float now. But I think that’s an acceptable trade-off.

                      That said, you’re the one that keeps going on about VOTERS and REPRESENTATION, but keep bashing a system that lets the voters choose who the final two are.

                    4. What is so special about the number 2?

                    5. Now that’s a good question, I think. The only advantage I can see is that you are guaranteed to get someone with a majority of the vote.

                      But I think that a system that allowed more than one candidate per party might be good. It might also help make party unity less of a driving force. Or making it easier to get on the ballot without party support would have a similar effect.

                      I certainly agree with you that giving more voters opportunity to vote for someone they can actually support in the general election is desirable.

                    6. What is so special about the number 2?
                      It’s how you guarantee a majority win instead of a plurality win.

                      You know all those people saying “voting Johnson is a win for Clinton”? Ignoring the electoral college and pretend it was just the popular vote for a second.

                      Under the normal “first past the post” system, Clinton can win with 34.33% of the vote if Trump gets 33.33% and Johnson gets 32.33%. In a top-two (or any number of other alternatives), the election would remove Johnson and re-try Trump and Clinton, and the Johnson voters, now freed up, can make the binary choice.

                      It allows people to both vote their conscience and then have a say in who the final selection is. In a normal first-past the post partisan system, that’s only true if (A) the parties are competitive, and (B) there are only two parties. If you enter a third, they become a “spoiler” and anyone that votes for the third party is basically opting out of having a meaningful choice.

                    7. If you enter a third, they become a “spoiler” and anyone that votes for the third party is basically opting out of having a meaningful choice.

                      Except that the “top-two” system does the same thing. You can effectively reduce an election to a single party if you don’t vote strategically. Like what happened in CA’s senate race. The only possibility for third parties here would be if the slots were party allotted like they are in other states, or if the number of choices that made it to what is now effectively the second round of voting was significantly greater than 2.

                      The majority that this system wrings out of the voters is artificial. Yes, it is not all that different from a runoff election on paper, but it is implemented quite differently. The real election happens before most people show up to vote and then the “runoff” election happens six months later, even if someone already had a majority of votes.

                      As R.C. Dean notes, why even bother having the second election?

                    8. So why not skip the general election and just put Harris in office?

                      It seems the logical extension of the argument that putting the third place finisher on the ballot is pointless.

                    9. Majority vs. plurality, that’s why.

                    10. Majority vs. plurality, that’s why.

                      What if people want to vote for none of the above or write-in another candidate? It’s a fake majority forced out of the voters.

          2. For 5 solid months, there are zero Republican, Libertarian, Green, et al. voices in the campaign for this Senate seat, and there are no Libertarian, et al. voices in any state race.

            In case you haven’t noticed, people are just starting to pay attention to the election now.

            Top Two is an unmitigated disaster by any metric except that of the majoritarian party. It represents a complete shutdown of any other viewpoint.

            1. Apparently, it’s not about viewpoints or voters, it’s just about one candidate. As long as the guy/gal who was already going to win (and how do we know this? magic!) still wins, what’s the big deal? You should have jumped through their hoops and it’s your own fault you didn’t!

      2. It seems to be ensuring that a maximum of two parties can be on the general election ballot.

        There shouldn’t even BE a primary election – if a party can’t agree on who their candidate for an office should be, it shouldn’t be up to a state or local election board (and all the public resources required) to help them.

        1. Well, yeah, but at least the top-2-run-off-regardless-of-primay doesn’t have the state aiding the candidate selection process of the parties. Except for the fact that party labels still appear on the ballots, it’s practically an officially non-partisan election.

          Would there be any remaining objection here if the party labels were left off the ballot? So it’d be completely non-partisan, officially?

          1. Would there be any remaining objection here if the party labels were left off the ballot? So it’d be completely non-partisan, officially?

            No. That would be even worse. There is no such thing as a “non-partisan” election. People have shared positions on issues and political affiliations. Why hide them?

    2. Basically the Dems didn’t want the Greens fucking up their chances.

  19. Per Bernie Sanders, nobody needs more than two candidates.

  20. As I noted when reporting on the outcome of the primary, participation in California’s elections has plunged to record lows, particularly in the primaries, where citizens votes matter most under this system. Estimates do show a big jump (49 percent of voters cast ballots) in 2016 compared to 2012 (31 percent) in primary vote participation.

    Editing error? Plunged to record lows, from 31% to 49%?

    1. Assuming the numbers (and not Scott’s wording) are correct, one presumes that the voters will eventually “adapt” to the new system. Also, I would expect the parties (esp. those in the minority) to start coordinating with voters more before the primary election, to help prevent losing a place on the general election ballot altogether.

      1. Part of the problem regardless of whether this system is used is the long time in so many states between the primary & the gen’l election. NY I thought had it right with a primary about 7 weeks before the gen’l, but for Congress has been forced by federal court order to have an earlier primary?which they now have in June! So a June primary, then a Sept. primary, separate petition filings…feh.

        1. Hmm, I could see it either way. The distance between elections could be said to have a sobering effect, but on the other hand conditions and circumstances change in so many months.

          I guess closer is generally better, up to a point. There’s still lag time between the general election and when people take office.

  21. Look to Washington state where it’s worked well for decades. They go a bit further with no partisan registration at all. Culture matters. Washington residents, left and right (that I knew), believe that government requiring to know your partisan affiliation is a violation of personal privacy!

    I lived there for 20 years (until 2005) and was amazed how it works, There seemed little difference in partisan positions or passions. but without partisan personal attacks. THAT is when voters are most likely to “cross party lines.” To punish an asshole. I never saw an exception.

    But it’s not Top Two and ballot access is simple. I needed only 100 signatures to file for a statewide office (Insurance Commissioner) and basically had a pass to the General Election as the only candidate for the Libertarian Party.

    For libertarians there’s more. The most libertarian state in America is Washington. By far. Name another state with a constitutional limit on spending — much more powerful than a balanced budget amendment. It’s a complicated formula, combining population growth and inflation, essentially freezing spending … per capita in real dollars. Surpluses MUST be placed into a “rainy day fund” to cover deficits in the next downturn.

    Amazingly (to me) BOTH parties strongly defend the rainy day fund. Reps to avoid a tax increase, Dems to avoid spending cuts. Enforced by nonpartisan primaries. (Spending can increase faster, but only with a super majority)

    1. Washington residents, left and right

      Japan is further east from New York than China.

      1. That would be amusing if it had anything to do with Washington State!.

    2. Washington residents, left and right (that I knew), believe that government requiring to know your partisan affiliation is a violation of personal privacy!

      And that is why I refuse to register with a party.

      1. Me too. But in Washington’s culture one should not have to state Independent or whatever.
        That’s from progressive Seattle to the far-right rural and eastern state,

  22. This tactic has disenfranchised more voters in a single election than every single voter ID law proposed in the country would.

    But, that doesn’t matter because, hey, Dems get to be in charge with no challenge. Gerrymandering is child’s play next to this corruption.

  23. Amazing, who you vote for isn’t as important as what powers they will wield once elected. It’s almost, almost, as if limiting those powers is the only solution that produces liberty for all.

    Hillary 2016

    Syrians’n’Asssex,
    Reason Magazine

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