Posted by Kellie Ryan on June 15, 2015 at 4:32 PM
Glazer's victory harbinger of change to national election landscape
June 12, 2015
Voters of California, America thanks you!
As many experts have opined, Steve Glazer's victory in the special state Senate race last month, which like all elections in California utilized the "Top Two" nonpartisan election system, signals a dramatic change in California's politics.
Under Top Two, California politics is becoming less predictable, less controlled and less exclusionary. The old approaches (which involved much dividing and much conquering) are not as effective as they used to be at manipulating the electorate. And members of the Legislature, who now must face all the voters to win, are much more capable of working across the aisle and tackling tough issues.
The California Legislature is still dominated by Democrats, just as it was under the old partisan system. Today, however, Democratic legislators are much less vulnerable to being told what to do by their party leaders. They don't just ask party leadership and core interest groups how to vote. They talk to their constituents and vote based on a variety of inputs.
So while Democrats may dominate the California Legislature, the Democratic Party does not control it.
Equally intriguing is the impact that California's "quiet revolution" is having on discussions around the country.
In Nebraska, there are more Republicans in the Legislature (35) than Democrats (13) or Independents (1). But that does not mean that the Republican Party "controls" the Legislature. Far from it.
Nebraskans elect their state legislators using the same nonpartisan, Top Two system used in California. And once elected, Nebraska representatives serve in a nonpartisan, unicameral legislature. As a result, representatives do not vote in party lockstep and unlikely, left-right coalitions are commonplace.
Witness the recent coalition that came together to abolish the death penalty in Nebraska. It defies traditional labels and conventional wisdom. Such a coalition would be almost impossible to construct within the confines of a traditional partisan controlled electoral system.
The Top Two nonpartisan system is looking better and better to voters and political leaders alike who are tired of an exclusionary electoral system that isn't fair and doesn't work.
In Mississippi, a citizen's commission empaneled by Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann recommended that the state switch to Top Two, nonpartisan primaries. Grass-roots sentiment mirrors the Hosemann commission's conclusion. A poll conducted by Open Primaries found that:
- 72 percent of active primary voters polled think Mississippi needs a fairer election system.
- 94 percent of Mississippians surveyed believe voters need to have as much or more power as political parties.
- 85 percent of voters polled think a nonpartisan system would force politicians to represent the people and not the parties.
- 86 percent believe closed primaries would be a step backward for the state.
It is not just Mississippi that is exploring a move away from partisan primaries in favor of the nonpartisan Top Two system.
In South Dakota, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Illinois, Maine, Florida, Alaska, Colorado and Nevada reform activists are in the earliest stages of mounting campaigns.
And U.S. Rep. John Delaney, D-Md., is poised to introduce federal legislation calling for the use of Top Two nonpartisan primaries for all congressional races. What voters accomplished in California in 2010 via ballot referendum is being taken very seriously by a growing coalition of forward-looking Americans.
The nonpartisan primaries movement stands for two things: more freedom for voters, and less control by political parties.
Our movement is growing because, unfortunately, the statement "you should not have to join a political party in order to vote!" is not yet the law of the land.
The parties have every right to organize, to fundraise, to proselytize and to recruit voters to their side. But partisan membership should never be a requirement for voting, and the parties should not control our legislatures.
Steve Glazer's surprise win in the runoff election last month is a wonderful compliment to the voters of California who have emerged as a driving force for electoral reform. And as these concepts continue to take root across the nation, we will all have California to thank.
John Opdycke is president of Open Primaries.