State of Elections

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Tag: Top two primary system

Primaries and Parties: Fusion Confusion?

By: Jonathan Barsky

This is the second of two posts raising potential constitutional flaws in California’s recently adopted “Top Two” primary system. This system allows the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, to advance to the general election in a wide array of state and federal races. This post will analyze a First Amendment objection rooted in the associational rights of political parties.

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Top Two Primaries and Third Party Voters: A Due Process Mathematical Mismatch

By: Jonathan Barsky

California currently employs an unusual electoral system, which is colloquially known as the “Top Two” primary, in both federal and state elections. Under this system, all of the candidates are thrown into a nonpartisan “jungle primary” that takes place in June and the two candidates who earn the most votes, regardless of party affiliation, advance to the November general election. The only exception to these rules is the presidential election, which still remains open to all major party candidates and several minor party and write-in candidates.

Over two posts, I will address potential constitutional flaws in California’s primary system. This post will discuss a Fourteenth Amendment injury that voters suffer stemming from the Due Process Clause, while the second post will analyze a First Amendment objection rooted in the associational rights of political parties, focusing on California Democratic Party v. Jones and Washington State Grange v. Washington State Republican Party.

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All Bark, No Bite: How California’s Top-Two Primary System Reinforces the Status Quo

by Nathan Yu

During the November 6 general election, the state of California saw the effects of one fascinating component of its electoral system:  its top-two open primary.

Over two years ago, California voters proposed and passed Proposition 14, a ballot initiative that drastically reformed the state’s primary system. Prior to Prop 14, California conducted closed primary elections, which meant a voter could only vote for candidates in his own political party. The candidate with the most votes from each “qualified” political party—the Democratic Party, Republican Party, American Independent Party, Americans Elect Party, Green Party, Libertarian Party, and Peace & Freedom Party—advanced to the general election where he would face the candidates who advanced from the other parties. In a sense, the old system guaranteed that a third party or independent candidate could secure a spot on the November general election ballot. Continue reading

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