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California and the West

Change in Blanket Primary Law Is Sent to Governor

July 14, 1998|From Associated Press

SACRAMENTO — A little more than a month after the state's first experience with a "blanket primary," the Legislature on Monday sent Gov. Pete Wilson a bill that could return voting to the old way for presidential elections.

Wilson was expected to sign the measure later in the day, putting the issue on the Nov. 3 ballot.

The June 2 statewide primary was the first in which voters could cast ballots for any candidate, regardless of party affiliation. Previously, voters in primaries could only consider candidates from their party.

The legislation would reauthorize partisan primaries to pick presidential nominees.

"If this bill does not become law, then California is at odds with the bylaws of both major parties, which prohibit selection of [presidential] delegates by blanket primary," said the author, Sen. John R. Lewis (R-Orange).

"At that point, some other method would be concocted to pick delegates--caucuses, an endorsing convention or some kind of rule change," Lewis said. "Whatever it would be, it would disenfranchise millions of Californians who expect that when voting for president their vote matters."

California voters passed a ballot measure in 1996 creating the blanket primary system. But if the blanket primary is used in 2000 to pick Republican and Democratic convention delegates--who eventually nominate presidential candidates--the delegates probably will not be seated, Lewis said.

"The Democrat national bylaws clearly say that states that select their delegations in open primaries . . . are subject to challenge at the convention," he said. "The Republican rule is tougher than that. It just says, 'We won't recognize it.' "

Lewis' bill would retain the blanket primary for other offices.

The Senate gave the bill final approval Monday on a 28-0 vote, adopting amendments added by the Assembly and sending the measure to Wilson.

The measure has to go on the November ballot because any changes in the blanket primary system need voters' approval.

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