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Public Presidential Primary Act

About AB 2207

AB 2207 fixes the broken policy that excludes millions of independents from the primary.
The bill would give all voters, including independents, a Presidential Primary Ballot with ALL the candidates running for President.
SIGN NOW: “We pay for the primary, so let us vote!”

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About the Bill

Summary

AB 2207 honors the desire of voters to participate in nonpartisan elections, while also protecting the rights of political parties. Under this bill, parties may continue to establish their own nomination proceedings by determining who may or may not participate in their processes.

Background

California ended its closed primary system in 1996 after the passage of Proposition 198 and established a “blanket” or “open” primary system, wherein every California voter received a ballot that listed every candidate regardless of political party affiliation. However, in the case of California Democratic Party v. Jonesi , the Supreme Court held that California’s “open” presidential primary system was unconstitutional because it violated the political parties’ First Amendment right of non-association under the United States Constitution.

The California Legislature responded to this decision by passing SB 28 (2001), which created the “modified” semi-closed presidential primary that we use today.

California’s semi-closed presidential primary means that political parties decide whether non-member voters have the right to participate in their presidential nomination proceedings. This current semi-closed primary system conditions the individual citizen’s right to vote on the private decision-making authority of political parties.

In 2010, voters approved Proposition 14, creating the Top Two Candidates Open Primary Act. Now, all statewide primary elections allow voters to vote for the candidate of their choice, regardless of their party affiliation. The presidential primary election every four years is the one exception to this rule.

With the passage of Propositions 198 and 14, California voters have demonstrated their intent to move away from partisan primary elections. The presidential primary election is inconsistent with the desire of voters to choose candidates irrespective of party affiliation.

This Bill

Requires the Secretary of State to furnish NPP voters with a presidential primary ballot that lists all candidates. AB 2207 will require that, for primary elections, the Secretary of State furnish every No Party Preference (NPP) voter with a public presidential primary ballot listing the candidates for each registered political party, unless that voter requests a party ballot. NPP voters will be able to cast a vote for the candidate of their choice during partisan primary elections and political parties will retain the right to determine their own nomination processes.

Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula of the 31st District has agreed to bring AB 2207 to the legislature for consideration.

“With an increasing number of independent and No Party Preference voters in California, we should bring consistency and openness to our state’s voting system. Assembly Bill 2207 doesn’t change the political parties’ decisions over ballots cast in California's presidential primary held every four years; it will ensure that every voter has the ability to cast a ballot for a candidate without regard to party affiliation," said Assemblymember Arambula. "It’s only fair that there be the addition of a public presidential primary ballot that includes all candidates running for president. AB 2207 also would increase notification efforts from county election offices to NPP voters about their options to request a particular party’s ballot, as long as that party allows crossover voting. The more information and support we can provide voters, the better.”

In addition to Assemblymember Arambula’s support, more than 30 national and local groups back AB 2207 including: FairVote, RepresentUS, OpenPrimaries, and Alliance San Diego.

Download the Fact Sheet

If the parties don’t have to count the votes on the NPP ballot, won’t these votes be wasted?

No. Fact is, the parties have no legal obligation to follow the results of the presidential primary, even their own. Presidential nominees are selected by party rules and, ultimately, at the party conventions. (Think, superdelegates, for example.) It is the public pressure, not the legal obligation, that connects the primary elections to the party nomination process. In short, the entire presidential primary election system is a private process governed, ultimately, by the private rules of the political parties, at the expense of the American taxpayers.

Aren’t Presidential primaries for the parties?

No. The political party’s private nomination process is for the parties. The presidential primaries are for voters. Voters have a significantly higher turnout during presidential primary elections because they want their voices to be heard. Voters, and the taxpayers who fund them, deserve to be heard whether or not the political parties ultimately select the candidate or candidates they support.

Because NPP (independent) voters cannot participate in the presidential primary election without affiliating with a party they don’t want to join (and navigating the confusing rules), NPP turnout is substantially lower among NPP voters. This not only infringes on the NPP voters’ right to vote for presidential, but results in significantly lower voter turnout up and down the ballot for all other races in California, which are otherwise nonpartisan.

How would AB 2207 simplify this process?

AB 2207 simplifies the voting process for 6 million CA NPP voters by providing a Public Ballot Option featuring all qualified presidential candidates, regardless of party. Currently, NPP (independent) voters in California receive a blank ballot for the presidential primary (yes, a blank ballot!). AB2207 would simply change the default ballot for NPP’s so they do not need to re-register with a political party to select the presidential candidate of their choice.

What issues do CA NPP voters face in the Presidential primary election?

There are nearly 6 million NPP (independent) voters in California. From not receiving a correct ballot, to not being able to vote for the candidate of their choice, to being confused or not knowing their ballot options, voters from across California were not happy with their 2020 Presidential primary election experience. The consequence of the current system results in the de facto disenfranchisement of millions of California registered voters.

If the legislature fails to act, is there another option to simplify the ballot?

California’s constitution requires that the legislature provide an “open presidential primary.” The state, however, actually provides a “semi-closed” presidential primary. This is the source of major voter confusion and disenfranchisement. IVP is one of 7 plaintiffs suing the California Secretary of State for infringing on several state and federal constitutional rights. 

IVP Chairman Dan Howle characterized the issue as being fairly simple, “The law and common sense are both clear. Let the political parties keep their own ballots. Let the parties exclude or include whoever they want. Let the parties decide their own rules of nomination. But give every voter their fundamental right to participate at every stage of the taxpayer-funded public election process.”

Who is supporting AB 2207?

AB 2207 is being introduced by Assemblymember Dr. Joaquin Arambula who obviously supports the bill. It also enjoys support from the Independent Voter Project, and a coalition of reform organizations, including the National Association of Nonpartisan Reformers, Open Primaries, FairVote, Represent.us, Unite America, Serve America Movement, Alliance San Diego, California Forward, and California’s Common Sense Party.

Our Coalition of Supporters

Are you or an organization that you represent interested in getting involved?

Join the growing coalition of voting rights advocates supporting IVP’s “Public Primary” initiative.

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Notes

*Article II, Section 5(c) of the California Constitution says, “[t]he Legislature shall provide for partisan elections for presidential candidates, and political party and party central committees, including an open presidential primary.”

**If you visit the California secretary of state’s website, here’s what it says:

How are presidential primary elections conducted in California?

Qualified political parties in California may hold presidential primaries in one of two ways:

  • Closed presidential primary— only voters indicating a preference for a party may vote for that party’s presidential nominee.
  • Modified-closed presidential primary—the party also allows voters who did not state a party preference to vote for that party’s presidential nominee.