Green Party requests public hearings to review California’s top two experiment and alternatives to it
Dear Chair Marc Berman and Chair Steven Glazer,
We are writing to request that the California State Assembly Committee on Elections and the State Senate Standing Committee on Elections and Constitutional Amendments convene a public inquiry process, to include public hearings around the state, to review California’s top two experiment and alternatives to it — including proportional representation for the state legislature and ranked choice voting for single-seat, statewide office.
As you probably know, California’s top-two elections system was placed on the June 2010 ballot by the state legislature without any analysis or public hearings, as part of a February 3, 2009 2 a.m. state budget deal.
This staggering lack of due diligence — about something so important as how we structure our democracy — needs to be addressed.
Now that top two elections have been in place since 2012, it is time for a review to see how top two has functioned in practice, and whether claims made for it in the official ballot statement and in the ballot arguments have borne out.
There are two major problems inherent to top two that are already well-documented - one affecting major party candidates and their supporters, and one affecting minor parties candidates and their supporters:
- Top two primaries are not designed to handle large numbers of competitive major party candidates, with vote-splitting among them creating potentially rendering random and unrepresentative results
There have been several cases where ‘too many’ strong candidates from one of the two major parties ‘split’ the primary election vote in a district, leading to results where no candidate representing a plurality/majority of the voters makes it to the general election ballot. To compensate for this inherent top two defect, strong candidates from the same party are often encouraged not to run — reducing voter choice — the opposite of how Proposition 14 was promoted to voters in June 2010 (https://www.latimes.com/politics/la-pol-ca-top-two-primary-changes-analysis-20180319-story.html).
- Top two elections also reduces voter choice by creating new barriers to diverse voices historically provided by the state’s smaller ballot-qualified parties
Top two election requirements make it de facto impossible for smaller party candidates to advance to the general election; and extremely difficult to even appear in the primary — making California a multi-party democracy in name only. The result is a narrower range of public policy options and less voter choice – again contrary to how top-two was promoted to voters (http://losangeles.cagreens.org/legislation/endorse-ab446-with-amendments).
Had there been an open public vetting process for top two before it was placed on the ballot, these inherent negative aspects of top two could have easily been anticipated and publicly debated. It’s not too late for that to still happen now. Our democracy deserves no less.
Green Party of California
Approved by the Green Party of California General Assembly, June 20, 2021