It’s been five years since voters approved “The Top Two Primary.” California has been taking stock of the open primary election reform, to see if it will be another case of “As California goes, so goes the nation” or a political flop. “I would never have entered this race and would never have won this race if there had not been the top-two primary,” Democratic State Senator Steve Glazer (D-Contra Costa), told the audience at the Nonpartisan Primary Summit. “One of the things the top-two did for me is it gave me some room for me to define what it meant to me to be a Democrat.” Glazer’s win over a more liberal Democrat was the most recent example of the influence this reform is having on California elections. But, is it resulting in reducing partisan bickering and gridlock while making elections more competitive and creating a more moderate and productive Legislature?
One Republican leader thinks so. “Your average Californian wants Republicans and Democrats working together to identify bipartisan solutions and, at the end of the day, getting results on core priorities,” said panelist and Assembly Republican leader Kristin Olsen (R-Modesto), who also called the Top Two a “step in the right direction.”
Prior to 2010, a California voter not registered with either the Democratic or Republican parties (that’s about one-quarter of the voters) could request a ballot for either party at a statewide primary and vote accordingly, but would be limited to voting only for that party’s candidates. Proposition 14 gave every voter the right to vote for all candidates in primary elections, with the top two vote getters moving on to the general election.