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Open-Primary Vote

Californians vented their frustration with partisan politics by passing Prop 14. But changing primaries may not help, says John Matsusaka.

Earlier this month, Californian voters passed Proposition 14, which starting in 2012 will open state primaries to all voters regardless of party affiliation. The measure, which was opposed by all the major political parties, will send the top two vote-getters on to the general election — so one might see a November battle between two Republicans, or two Democrats.

However, John G. Matsusaka of the Initiative and Referendum Institute at USC isn’t optimistic that the voters’ edict will reform the business of politics.

“Proposition 14 will have little effect on the type of people elected to the legislature or the way they behave,” Matsusaka says. “Scholars have reached this conclusion from studying other states with various forms of open primaries. The findings generally confirm the ineffectiveness of open primaries in bringing about significant change in legislative performance.

“Voters support open primaries because they are frustrated and fed up with partisanship and political parties,” he notes. “Voters are hungering for representatives who work for common good, rather than their partisan and interest group supporters. Unfortunately, Proposition 14 is unlikely to give voters the relief they seek.”

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