Almost ten years ago, California voters passed the nonpartisan “top-two” voter-centric election system modeled after Washington State.
The success of the voter-centric system is underscored by its popularity with the California public and its unpopular status with partisan political leaders and numerous political consultants and pundits that think elections should serve political parties first, rather than voters.
The Independent Voter Project, author of California’s top-two primary initiative, established three main goals for the constitutional amendment:
(1) Ensure that every voter is treated the same at every stage of the election process, regardless of party affiliation,
(2) increase competition from within, and outside of, the political parties, and
(3) eliminate the partisan nature of the first stage of the election process so that voters are not forced to affiliate with a party to exercise their right to vote.
Toward these goals, the top-two primary has been a complete success. This is particularly impressive given the powerful partisan interests that dominate the national political ecosystem.
Voters are starting to buck the bipartisan establishment because they are recognizing that both parties have used our public election process to insulate themselves from competition.
That’s why the voters in Washington, California, and most recently Maine, have achieved serious voter-centric reforms despite intense opposition from the establishment.
But, reform is not easy. It is not perfect. And we should always look for ways to improve.
One such model that holds great promise in garnering that kind of broad-based, and non-ideological support combines the best features of the nonpartisan “Top-Two” with the best features of ranked choice voting: Nonpartisan “Top-Four” primaries, with ranked choice voting in the general election.
IVP is drafting model legislation which would advance four candidates out of the voter-nominated primary and then allow November voters to choose the winner by ranking their preference 1 through 4.
Our coalition will submit this model to the National Conference of State Legislators and the American Legislative Exchange Council.
In addition to the goals already achieved in California, the “Top-Four” nonpartisan primary with ranked choice voting in the general election can provide a model nationwide to:
(1) Increase candidate access to the general election ballot,
(2) Give voters more choice, and
(3) Ensure that the candidate selected in November, when the most people vote, is determined by a majority of voters.