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Yes on Prop. 14

It’s a sensible and modest step toward improving California politics.

April 21, 2010

The open primary envisioned by Proposition 14 is not cross-filing, but it's within that tradition. It won't eliminate partisan districts — don't wait for a Republican surge in Santa Monica or a Democratic upset in Simi Valley — nor should it. The solution to California's problems is not the elimination of ideological or partisan differences, and the state's political geography — liberals generally clustered along the coast, conservatives dominant in the inland valleys — won't be dramatically affected by new voting rules. California happily will remain a diverse and disputatious place.

But a politician who wants to be reelected under Proposition 14 rules would face different pressures, some of which could induce constructive behavior. A Democrat running for office in, say, the San Fernando Valley might seek to assemble a record that hewed to the party on major issues but showed enough independence to sway some moderate Republicans. Or a Republican running in northern Orange County might conclude that crossover support from moderate Democrats would be enough to compensate for the loss of conservative support that goes with opposing tough-on-crime measures. If a significant minority of officials from both parties drew those conclusions, California might gradually grope its way back to a politics of achievement rather than posture.

Rules alone do not produce a rational state government, but bad rules can make that harder. California's current primary system makes rationality all but impossible, so it's time to dump it over the side. Today's system results in inflexibility; Proposition 14 can help replace some of that with genuine incentives to govern responsibly. That's worth supporting. We urge a yes vote on Proposition 14.

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