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California's new open primary system; judging the Prop. 8 case; a poll on public workers and their benefits and pensions

April 28, 2011

Cellphone scofflaws

Re "Texting drivers are on notice," April 26

I work in a luxury department store on Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. One afternoon I got

stopped and ticketed for talking on my cellphone

while on a side street behind the store. My earpiece wasn't charged and was not in use. I was clearly guilty

and promptly paid the ticket.

However, day after day as I walk on Wilshire, I am utterly amazed (and furious) at the vast number of folks still talking on their cellphones. I do not see anyone being stopped and cited.

This could be a virtual goldmine for the state. But I conclude from reading the article that the purpose of these high-priced tickets is to maintain safety, not increase revenue. Right.

Patrick Joseph

Los Angeles

Making every vote count

Re "A test of the open primary," Editorial, April 25

Of California's new open primary, you write that it is "the system by which Los Angeles residents have long selected their leaders, including the mayor." In fact, our mayor is elected by the "double vote" system. It bans party labels and requires a second vote only if no candidate wins a first-round majority.

By contrast, the new open-primary system allows party labels, and it requires a second vote between the top two vote-getters from the first round, even if one of them had a majority. Unless a district is overwhelmingly of one party or the first-round vote of one party is badly split, this system should nominate a Republican and a Democrat, as in the past.

Reformers hope those candidates will be more moderate. I am skeptical. Primary voters have long been fewer and more partisan than general election voters, many of whom rely on primaries to narrow the field.

Thomas Schwartz

Studio City

The writer is a political science professor at UCLA.

The important job of the May 17 primary to decide who will compete for outgoing Rep. Jane Harman's seat is to produce the candidates whom a majority of the voters prefer as their final candidates. If it doesn't do so, it has failed.

To reliably produce those candidates, the final reform required is to make the primary a "majority preferential voting" (forced ranking) primary, and stop when it has revealed the two candidates with the highest vote tallies. The remaining question would then be to decide on how many levels of ranking to allow.

Glenn Stoddard

Winnetka

Bias is in the eye of the beholder

Re "Prop. 8 supporters say judge's ruling should be voided," April 26

If a judge in a committed same-sex relationship should recuse himself from this case because of his assumed bias, then logic demands that judges in committed heterosexual relationships also recuse themselves, as they might be biased as well. But Proposition 8 supporters prefer the latter bias.

Indeed, maybe all judges in committed relationships of any kind should recuse themselves because, on the basis of the premise in the request to have the decision overturned, only judges with no relationships seem to have the required degree of impartiality.

The perception of bias depends on where you stand on the issue and how far you want to stretch your argument, which, in this case, seems to be "to the point of breaking."

Maria Simpson

Los Angeles

Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the UC Irvine law school, argues that requiring U.S. District Judge Vaughn R. Walker to have recused himself from the gay marriage case based on his ongoing same-sex relationship would be like arguing that "black judges cannot decide race discrimination cases or female judges preside over cases involving sex bias."

Indeed, a black judge should not preside over a case in which the issue would be that blacks cannot be judges, and a female judge should recuse herself if the issue were that females cannot be judges. However, that is a far cry from arguing that they should not decide cases involving general race or sex-discrimination questions. Here, the issue would directly determine whether Walker could marry his partner.

Jeremiah Flanigan

Long Beach

There should be a very simple rule with all articles related to Proposition 8. Replace the term "gay" with "black" and the term "marriage" with "segregation." I do feel that the phrase "Judge Walker had a duty to disclose he was black and step down before deciding whether a ban on segregation violated the federal Constitution" is more informative about the viewpoints of the initiative's sponsors.

Jon Phillips

Torrance

Taking sides on pensions

Re "Voters favor pension limits," Times/USC Dornsife poll, April 25

When discussing reforming public pensions, it would be helpful for the public to realize how different the particulars are in all of them. Some cities have their employees pay very little, whereas the California State Teachers' Retirement System requires a chunk to be taken out of employees' monthly paychecks.

As a community college professor, I have contributed almost half a million dollars to this pension fund over 40 years, and those funds have also been invested wisely. Not all public employee groups are alike.

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