Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) announced Tuesday he authored and introduced a Constitutional Amendment to allow voters vote to end California’s Top 2 Primary election system, also known as the “Jungle Primary.” Assembly Constitutional Amendment 16 would require a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and the Senate, as well as from a majority of California voters.
“The Top 2 Primary is making a farce of our democracy with gamesmanship, fluke outcomes, and the disenfranchisement of independent voters,” said Assemblyman Kevin Kiley. “After 10 years of broken promises, it’s time to end this failed experiment once and for all.”
California’s electorate adopted its “top-two” primary system at the June 2010 statewide election by passing Proposition 14. It became operative on January 1, 2011 and amended Section 5 of Article II of the California Constitution. Globe contributor Chris Micheli recently explained.
Prop. 14 added to Section 5(a) that “the candidates who are the top two vote-getters at a voter-nominated primary election for a congressional or state elective office shall, regardless of party preference, compete in the ensuing general election.”
“Proposition 14 created a single ballot for primary elections, rather than multiple ballots based on political party, for elected statewide and legislative officials, members of the U.S. Senate, and members of the U.S. House,” Ballotpedia reports. “The measure prohibited political parties from nominating candidates in a primary, although political parties were allowed to endorse, support, or oppose candidates. Proposition 14 did not affect partisan primary elections for president or political party officers.”
Kiley continued: “Proponents of the Top 2 Primary system argued that it would lead to increased voter participation, less partisanship, and more competitive races, but none of these outcomes have materialized. ACA 16 (Kiley) would address a number of bipartisan frustrations with the current primary system that has led to multiple instances of Republicans and Democrats being unrepresented in November legislative runoffs.”
The San Diego Union Tribune editorial board wrote in 2018 about the “hated” Jungle Primary and why, even as they continued to support it:
Now, eight years later, what’s come to be known as the “jungle primary” is again facing ferocious criticism from partisans.
Democrats hate the fact that with so many Democratic candidates splitting the vote, it’s possible that two Republicans could advance to the fall runoff in some of the seven highly contested California House seats now held by the GOP. Republicans hate the fact that there’s a chance two Democrats could advance in the governor’s race, thus potentially depressing GOP turnout in November.
Their reasoning for continued support is interesting:
In an era of heavy partisanship and polarization, the view that it is unhealthy to give too much gate-keeping power to the two major parties is more appealing than ever — especially given their declining support. Gallup has reported way more independents than either Democrats or Republicans since 2011, and the gap is widening. Last year, Gallup found independents at 42 percent, Democrats at 29 percent and Republicans at 27 percent.
A recent op ed by Ron Nehring, former chairman of the California Republican Party, and Steve Maviglio, Sacramento-based Democratic strategist, excoriated the top 2 primary:
“Just as the top-two primary has created opportunities to game the system, it has produced quirky results that have denied millions of Californians the chance to vote for like-minded candidates in general elections. Two out of three U.S. Senate races and 12% of all congressional races under this system have featured two candidates from the same party.”
“The top-two primary has spawned cynical campaign tactics, forced millions of voters to choose between two unsatisfactory options in the fall and produced bizarre results. It’s time to declare this experiment a failure and move on. “
It’s not clear if voters feel the same as those who are deeply involved in politics.