The New Rules of the Political Game in California. The Problem and “Solutions”. Conventional wisdom is that partisan polarization in California is caused by: “Gerrymandering” to create safe political districts Primary elections controlled by partisan extremists
The Problem and “Solutions” • Conventional wisdom is that partisan polarization in California is caused by: • “Gerrymandering” to create safe political districts • Primary elections controlled by partisan extremists • Proposed solutions are changes to these processes: • Citizens Redistricting Commission • Top-two primary • Both implemented in 2012
The New Electoral Rules for 2012 Citizens Redistricting Commission Top-Two Primary • After failed attempts in 1982, 1984, 1990, and 2005, voters passed initiative to create it • 2008 (Prop 11) and 2010 initiatives put power in the hands of commission • After 104 public meetings in 32 cities, commission redrew lines without regard to party registration or incumbent addresses • Over the past decade, primary elections have been used for parties (and independent voters if invited) to nominate general election candidates. • 2010 Prop. 14 takes parties out of the process: primary winnows the field to the top two candidates, regardless of “party preference,” to compete in general election • Applies to state and federal offices
History of Party Nominations • In California’s history, the process of selecting party nominees has undergone significant changes. • The Convention System, 1849-1908. Parties got to throw their own parties, managing and paying for conventions that were not regulated by the state. • No laws against bribing delegates. • No laws guaranteeing delegates the right to vote at a convention. • “Both sneaks and sluggers were employed as the occasion dictated.” –C. Edward Merriam, 1908. • Streetfights between the longhair and shorthair Union partisans in 1866
Historical “Evolution” of Candidate Nominations in CA • Direct primaries with cross-filing, 1908-1959. • 1908 initiative, pushed by Progressives, had the state take over and finance primaries in which party members voted. • Cross-filing removed a candidate’s party label from the primary ballot, and allowed candidates to run in multiple primaries
Historical “Evolution” of Candidate Nominations in CA Cross-Filing • Party members could still select their nominee, but they often chose an incumbent from the other party. • 1952 initiative attached party labels. • 1959 abolition of cross filing prevented candidates from running in more than one party primary.
Historical “Evolution” of Candidate Nominations in CA Blanket Primary, 1998-2000. • Proposition 198, financed by moderate Republicans and reformers, let voters chose the primary in which they would participate. • Meant to bring independents and moderates into the process, and select more moderate nominees. • The US Supreme Court agreed that this system violated a party’s freedom of association in California Democratic Party vs. Jones, 2000
Historical “Evolution” of Candidate Nominations in CA • In June, 2010, voters passed the “top-two primary” law • Put on the ballot by moderate Republican Abel Maldonado • Voters can choose from all candidates from all parties in any office • The “top-two,” regardless of party, advance to the November ballot
The Partisan Warfare of Redistricting: Rules of the Game • After each census (2010, 2000, ...) new congressional, state Senate, and state Assembly districts drawn because: • CA often got more seats in Congress. • Old districts no longer = in population. • In the past, new district maps passed as a bill in the legislature: • Needed to pass each house with simple majorities and be signed by the governor, requiring compromise.
The Partisan Warfare of Redistricting: Rules of the Game • Like any law, a redistricting plan can be overturned by a petition referendum • If elected officials fail to reach an agreement, redistricting passes to the State Supreme Court, which may appoint “Special Masters.” • The federal Voting Rights Act of 1965 allows affected voters to sue if the voting power of racial and ethnic minorities is diluted when lines drawn with discriminatory intent and effect.
Did it Work? • Contrary to some expectations, the Commission did not deadlock, successfully defended plans in court • New districts more geographically compact than prior districts • More opportunities for Latino representation in the Assembly • For parties, a wash • Neither party clearly advantaged • Slight increase in the number of competitive seats