SACRAMENTO, CA – Today Assemblyman Kevin Kiley (R-Rocklin) announced the introduction of Assembly Constitutional Amendment 16, which would give voters the opportunity to end California’s Top 2 Primary election system.
“The Top 2 Primary is making a farce of our democracy with gamesmanship, fluke outcomes, and the disenfranchisement of independent voters,” said Assemblyman Kevin Kiley. “After 10 years of broken promises, it’s time to end this failed experiment once and for all.”
Proponents of the Top 2 Primary system argued that it would lead to increased voter participation, less partisanship, and more competitive races, but none of these outcomes have materialized. ACA 16 (Kiley) would address a number of bipartisan frustrations with the current primary system that has led to multiple instances of Republicans and Democrats being unrepresented in November legislative runoffs.
In recent weeks, a number of voices in the media and across the political spectrum have raised similar concerns about the Top 2 Primary experiment in California:
“A byproduct of a 2010 state budget deal, this unusual system was an experiment in democracy. Sadly, it has failed to deliver on any of the promises made by its backers…The top-two primary has spawned cynical campaign tactics, forced millions of voters to choose between two unsatisfactory options in the fall and produced bizarre results. It’s time to declare this experiment a failure and move on.”
“The promises made by supporters of the top-two primary largely fell into one of three categories: increased participation by the state’s growing number of independent voters, a decrease in the number of ultrapartisans elected to office and more competitive races for seats in the California Legislature and Congress…But the results from a decade of primary elections seem thin — especially when considering the promise that the election rules would inspire more participation by California’s independent voters, those registered as having ‘no party preference.’”
“After 10 years, the top-two California primary system is under fire again, but the problems may have more to do with political gamesmanship…Supporters also assured voters that the top two would increase voter participation overall by engaging a broader range of voters, not just partisans. The truth is a bit of a mixed bag: Political independents can now freely participate in the primary, but many partisan voters are turned off if top-of-the-ticket races don’t include a member of their party. And there’s no evidence that non-voters are drawn to the polls by the state’s primary system, even while a series of other changes have made it much easier to register to vote.”
“The state is perfecting democracy in form rather than substance, cursing the small subset of voters who reliably engage in its elections to an often pointless pantomime of participation. California ostensibly invites voters of every political affiliation to weigh in on a wide range of offices — twice in the case of this year’s bizarre U.S. Senate election — and an even wider range of ballot questions…And yet Tuesday’s primary embodied none of the goals of such reforms.”
Assemblyman Kevin Kiley represents the 6th Assembly District, which includes the Sacramento, Placer, and El Dorado County communities of Cameron Park, El Dorado Hills, Fair Oaks, Folsom, Granite Bay, Lincoln, Loomis, Orangevale, Penryn, Rocklin, Roseville, and Sheridan.