View Mobile Site
 

Ask the Expert

Signal Photos

 

Election: Voters OK open primaries, quake repair measure

Posted: June 8, 2010 10:32 p.m.
Updated: June 9, 2010 12:21 p.m.
 

LOS ANGELES (AP) - California voters fed up with politics as usual scrapped their partisan primary system Tuesday in favor of an open one in which voters can cast ballots for any candidate.

The passage of Proposition 14 reflects voter anger in California and across the nation at a system that critics complained has been dominated by a small coterie of political activists in each of the two major political parties.


One of five measures on the ballot, Proposition 14 was backed by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has long argued that centrist candidates rarely win primaries dominated by party activists.

"We are now a significant step closer to bringing real accountability to government and putting the people back in charge of the politicians," Schwarzenegger said in a statement.

Schwarzenegger's own campaign committee donated $2 million to support the effort and the California Chamber of Commerce gave $720,000 more.

Also Tuesday, voters overwhelmingly adopted Proposition 13, a measure that would exempt earthquake-safety improvements from property taxes.

Other ballot measures ask Californians to experiment with public funding of political campaigns, impose voter oversight of public power and authorize insurance companies to charge higher rates to drivers who have not always carried car insurance.

Until now, California voters have been limited in most primary elections to casting ballots for candidates of only the political party they are registered with. But beginning with the 2012 gubernatorial primary, a voter in the nation's most populous state can cast a ballot for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation.

Under the new system, two candidates of the same party could face off in a general election in state and federal races.

The campaign's public face has been Lt. Gov. Abel Maldonado, a Republican who as a state senator last year leveraged his budget vote and agreed to raise $13 billion in taxes if lawmakers agreed to put Proposition 14 on the ballot.

"There's a huge dissatisfaction with government and we need to come together to fix California," Maldonado told The Associated Press in a telephone interview. "Politicians will no longer have to be accountable to party bosses."

Republican and Democratic parties complained that Proposition 14 would give well-funded special interests the greatest sway over the election process, arguing that candidates would be beholden to big-money donors, not voters.

Third parties said they feared their candidates would be shut out of general elections because minor candidates typically draw fewer votes. The Green and the Peace and Freedom parties ran radio and television ads opposing Proposition 14, but their fundraising was dwarfed by backers of the measure.

Proposition 14 is patterned after a law in Washington state that has been in effect since 2008. That law was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court, although some provisions are still in litigation.

Louisiana also has a similar open contest for its general election and sends the top two vote-getters to a runoff.

The other election-related measure, Proposition 15, would open the door to public funding of political campaigns in California after a 26-year ban.

With 13 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 15 was trailing by 55 percent to 45 percent.

If approved by voters, candidates running for secretary of state in 2014 and 2018 voluntarily could agree to limit their spending in exchange for as much as $2.3 million to compete in the primary and general elections. Additional money would be available to candidates if competitors or special interests spent more money.

California's largest utility has poured the most money into a proposition on the primary ballot. Pacific Gas & Electric Co. contributed $46 million to Proposition 16 in a ploy to stymie competing public power agencies from expanding into new territory and to discourage municipalities from starting their own utilities.

The initiative would amend the California Constitution to require local governments to get two-thirds voter approval before they could use tax dollars to start a power agency.

Voters appeared divided on Proposition 16. Early returns showed the measure leading by less than a percentage point with 13 percent of precincts reporting.

Another business-backed initiative, Proposition 17, was put on the ballot by Mercury Insurance in a bid to overturn a state law that prohibits insurance companies from considering a driver's insurance history to set rates. It also would allow loyalty discounts to follow costumers if they switch insurance companies.

The third largest auto insurer in the state, Mercury has contributed nearly $15 million to fund the campaign. It argues that most policyholders would save money through the continuous-coverage discount.

With 13 percent of precincts reporting, Proposition 17 was leading by 52 percent to 48 percent.

A proposition put on the ballot by the Legislature would prevent counties from raising property taxes on buildings retrofitted to withstand earthquakes until ownership changes.

Current law exempts owners of unreinforced masonry structures, such as those made of brick or cement blocks, from higher property taxes for 15 years after they make seismic improvements.

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.

Comments

Commenting not available.
Commenting is not available.

 
 

Powered By
Morris Technology
Please wait ...