In the recent primary elections, California tested a new open primary system that allows for a less partisan selection of the candidates who will face off in November for legislative positions. With open primaries, voters, no matter their party affiliation or lack of one, can vote for any candidate for the state legislature or U.S. Congress, regardless of the candidate’s party affiliation.
Although it’s too soon to analyze if this new system really alleviates a little of the hyper-partisanship we have experienced in Sacramento-and the country-in the past few years, last Tuesday’s results provide a couple of reasons to be optimistic.
On the one hand, voters did not bother to get into the election: voter turnout was 24.5%, the lowest in California’s presidential primary history. On the other, at least 24 races for state Legislature and U.S. Congress positions produced two winners from the same party who must face off in November. Supposedly, they will make their platforms less partisan and more inclusive in order to attract other voters in their race to the top.
We could possibly see moderate campaigns for November, when these fellow party members compete for positions and need to appeal to a larger segment of voters than just their own party. However, all the incumbents survived and went to the second round, so the political shakeout was not as earth-shattering as expected.
What did happen is that some groups supported moderate candidates from the opposite party so that the most radical candidate wouldn’t win in a district. For example, some unions supported moderate Republicans and business groups that are traditionally Republican backed moderate Democrats to avoid the most extreme candidate. In the long run, this can help obtain more consensus in the state Legislature. Or that is the intention, at least. We must wait to find out if this is going to happen, but it seems to be headed in the right direction.