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Primary Elections

All voters would receive the same primary election ballot for most state and federal offices. Only the two candidates with the most votes - regardless of political party identification - would advance to the general election ballot.

Yes: 2,117,064 [54.2%]
No: 1,795,744 [45.8%]

Pro / Con


Supporters say that a yes vote would mean California citizens could vote for any candidate they wish for state and congressional offices, regardless of political party preference. Supporters also claim that experts have found that measures like Prop. 14 result in elected representatives in Sacramento and California who are less partisan and more practical.


Californians for an Open Primary
Independent Californian Voter Network
California Forward
California Chamber of Commerce
California Association of Health Underwriters
Silicon Valley Leadership Group


Opponents claim that the politicians behind Proposition 14 have included a deceptive provision in the measure that will actually make primaries less open. They say that the fact that candidates don't have to list their party affiliation on the ballot will allow them to look independent while still remaining loyal to their party. Opponents also claim that the Proposition is "business as usual" disguised as reform.


No On Prop.14 [Archived in Internet Archive]
Californians for Electoral Reform [Archived in Internet Archive]
Coalition for Free and Open Elections
California Democratic Party
California Republican Party
California Green Party
California Peace & Freedom Party
NAACP of California
Southern California Tax Revolt Coalition



SurveyUSA Election Poll #16638
“On Proposition 14, which changes primary elections so that all candidates appear on the same ballot, are you ... Certain to vote yes? Certain to vote no? Or not certain? {"Not certain" voters were asked: At this hour, on Proposition 14, do you ... lean toward yes? lean toward no, or do you not lean? }””

University of Southern California/Los Angeles Times Poll
Greenberg Quinlan Rosner and American Viewpoint USC/Los Angeles Times

See this Los Angeles Times page for more details.

Do you favor or oppose passing a ballot measure that would enact a system where candidates from all parties run together in a single primary? All registered voters would be allowed to vote in that primary and the two candidates who receive the most votes, regardless of party, would then advance to the general election.

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government May 2010
Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Sonja Petek, and Nicole Willcoxon 

See pg. 11

&ldquo“Proposition 14 is called ‘Elections. Increases Right to Participate in Primary Elections…’ If the election were held today, would you vote yes or no on Proposition14? ””

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government, March 2010
Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Sonja Petek, and Nicole Willcoxin ;

See pg. 15

"Proposition 14 is called ‘Elections. Increases Right to Participate in Primary Elections.’ …If the election were held today, would you vote yes or no on Proposition 14?";

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government, September 2009
Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Jennifer Paluch, and Sonja Petek 

See pg. 16

“Some people have proposed changing California’s state  primary elections from a partially closed system to a system where registered voters could cast ballots for any candidate in a primary and the top two vote-getters regardless of party—would advance to the general election. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?”

PPIC Statewide Survey: Californians and Their Government March 2009
Mark Baldassare, Dean Bonner, Jennifer Paluch, and Sonja Petek 

See pg. 20

“On another topic, recently, some people have proposed changing California’s state primary elections from a partially closed system to a system where registered voters could cast ballots for any candidate in a primary and the top two vote-getters—regardless of party—would advance to the general election. Do you think this is a good idea or a bad idea?”



Primaries in California

California primary election law has a complex history. The direct primary first became law in 1909 as a progressive era reform. The legislation created a closed primary system in which registered voters of a particular party received only the ballot of that party. Registered voters who declined to state a party preference received a ballot containing only non-partisan offices. In 1913, in a further progressive era reform, cross filing was instituted. Wikimedia.orgCross filing permitted a candidate to appear on more than one party ballot for the same office, and to become the nominee of more than one party. Cross filing was eliminated in 1959.

The next big change in primary election law occurred in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 198 in the March primary. Called the "Open Primary Initiative," Proposition 198 created a blanket primary for California. The blanket primary permitted all voters, both registered partisans and "declined to state" independents, to choose among all the the candidates on the primary ballot, irrespective of party affiliation. The intent was to encourage political participation and to promote the selection of centrist candidates who would need to appeal to a broad spectrum of voters to win.

The blanket primary system was in effect for the primary elections of June 1998 and March 2000. In June 2000 the United States Supreme Court declared Proposition 198 unconstitutional. In California Democratic Party v. Jones, the high court invoked the First Amendment right of association and ruled that political parties in California have a constitutional right to exclude nonparty members in primary elections.

In September 2000, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court decision, California enacted SB28 (Ch. 898, Stats. 2000), which established a modified closed primary. Under SB28, registered voters of a particular party receive only the ballot of that party, as was the case with California's earlier closed primary law. However, unaffiliated ("decline to state") voters may choose a party ballot, but only if the party has authorized unaffiliated voters to participate in its primary.

In November 2004 two competing primary election measures appeared on the ballot, Propositions 60 and 62. Proposition 62 was placed on the ballot in an initiative campaign led by a coalition of corporations, business executives and politicians. It attempted to restore a version of the blanket primary in which the top two vote-getters would always appear on the general election ballot. Proposition 60 (SCA18) was placed on the ballot by the legislature in June 2004 to counter Proposition 62. With the defeat of Proposition 62 and the passage of Proposition 60, the modified closed primary system was preserved.

Proposition 14 (2010)Photo by Steve McFarland,

The substance of Proposition 14 was proposed to the Legislature by Sen. Abel Maldonado in 2009 as an amendment to SCA4. The Senate and Assembly passed SCA4 in exchange for Sen. Maldonado's decisive vote to pass the budget.

If the measure is approved, it would take effect for the 2012 elections. Congressional and state races would be conducted in much the same way that nonpartisan city, county and school district elections have been conducted in California. It would not affect presidential primary elections.

Proposition 14 would require that candidates run in a single primary open to all registered voters with the top two vote-getters meeting in a runoff. Voters could vote in the primary election for any candidate in the race. Furthermore, candidates could choose to not feature their political party affiliation on the ballot.

Proposition 14 would amend a provision passed by Proposition 60 (2004) that currently states that any political party that participated in a primary election for a partisan office has the right to participate in the general election for that office and shall not be denied the ability to place on the general election ballot the candidate who received, at the primary election, the highest vote among that party’s candidates. If Proposition 14 passes, this provision will be amended to deny this right for any candidates except the top two vote-getters.


Voter Resources

Voter Resources

Official CA Documents

Official Voter Information Guide

Campaign Finance Information

Cal-Access General

Committees formed to support or oppose the ballot measure

Cal-Access Ballot Measure Summary Data Search 
Select Primary 08 June 2010 and Proposition 014.

Cal-Access provides financial information supplied by state candidates, donors, lobbyists, and others.

Nonpartisan Analyses


Pros & Cons (League of Women Voters)

Primary Process Reform in California, T. Anthony Quinn and R. Michael Alvarez, California Forward, April2010.

Open Primaries and Top Two Elections: Proposition 14 on California's June 2010 Ballot, Molly Milligan, Center for Governmental Studies, 2010.

Open Primaries. Eric McGhee, Public Policy Institute of California, February 2010.
Full Report [PDF] 
Press Release [HTML] 
Technical Appendix [PDF]

(2010) "Does Partisan Polarization Lead to Policy Gridlock in California?," Thad B. Kousser, California Journal of Politics and Policy: Vol. 2 : Iss. 2, Article 4.

Voting at the Political Fault Line: California's Experiment with the Blanket Primary, Bruce E. Cain, and Elisabeth R. Gerber, editors . Berkeley:  University of California Press,  c2002 2002.







News and Opinion
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