FROM: Kim Alexander
DATE: November 17, 1998
RE: California Voters and the 2000 Presidential Primary
As many of you have probably heard in recent news stories, California’s 2000 Primary election is developing into a confusing and potentially difficult situation for California voters.
Basically, two things have happened: first, the California Legislature recently passed and Governor Wilson signed a new law moving California’s 2000 Primary election to March 7th, making California one of the earliest states to hold a primary. That’s good news or bad news depending on who you talk to.....Californians have long complained that despite the size of the California electorate (more than one-tenth of the entire country), California voters typically have little say or sway in the outcome of Presidential primaries because our primary election was always held in June. In 1996, California experimented with an early Presidential Primary, but while the date was moved up to late March, California still wound up with its primary late in the season because many other states leap-frogged ahead of us.
The new primary date is the earliest date the major parties will allow, and some say it will give Californians a bigger voice in selecting the presidential nominees. Others say it will drive up the cost of campaigning for president even further, since California is a huge state that requires expensive media buys in order to reach voters.
The second big event that is impacting California’s 2000 Primary election is our state’s new Open Primary law. Passed by the voters in 1996 (and unsuccessfully challenged by the Republican and Democratic parties afterwards), California’s new Open Primary system allows voters to cast ballots for candidates of any political party, regardless of whether the voter is registered to that party.
The new law made exceptions to this rule when voters cast ballots for party central committees, restricting those votes to only registered voters of the party. However, the Open Primary law did not include a similar provision when casting ballots in Presidential elections, and both major parties have rules that only honor elections where the party’s nominees are selected exclusively by the party’s members.
The Legislature attempted to address this problem by placing Proposition 3 on the November 1998 ballot. This measure would have allowed only party members to cast ballots in that party’s presidential primary, while retaining the “open primary” system for all other California elections. However, there was no campaign effort in support of this measure, and Prop. 3 was defeated.
Now, California Secretary of State Bill Jones is asking the Republican and Democratic parties to amend their rules to allow California’s 2000 primary votes to be counted. He’s also seeking support for his proposal to implement rotating regional primaries. More information about California’s 2000 Primary and Jones’ proposals are featured below.
-- Kim Alexander, President
California Voter Foundation
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -- Tuesday, November 17, 1998
CONTACT: Alfie Charles or Shirley Washington
Jones Urges National Reform of Presidential Primary System Will Present Plan to Create System of Rotating Regional Primaries to National Association of Secretaries of State in Washington, D.C. This Week; Jones Also Calls on Political Parties to Accept Results of California Open Presidential Primary
SACRAMENTO --- California Secretary of State Bill Jones announced today that he will be calling on election officials in all fifty states to sponsor legislation that would revamp the presidential primary process to create a system of four or five regional presidential primaries in time for the 2004 election cycle. Under Jones' proposal, the regions would set up a structured calendar of primary election dates that would rotate every four years to allow voters in each region an equal opportunity to be among the first states to have their voices heard in the presidential nominating process.
"The presidential selection process should still begin in smaller states like New Hampshire and Iowa that require candidates to meet with individual voters and practice retail, rather than media-driven, politics," noted Jones. "Unfortunately, the presidential selection process falls apart almost immediately after the first primary and caucuses are held.
"The states need to work together to stop the quadrennial game of presidential primary leap-frog that has created the type of logjam of presidential primaries that we will see in March of 2000. The rotating regional primary concept is the best way to ensure that voters in all fifty states are treated fairly.
"California has the largest number of presidential delegates in the country and will be among the first states to pledge delegates for president in 2000, but we recognize the greater need of the nation to develop a disciplined system of scheduling presidential primaries," said Jones.
In light of the recent implementation of the Open Primary process in California, Secretary Jones also called on the national political parties to abide by the will of the California voters and accept the results of the 2000 Open Primary when seating delegates for their presidential conventions.
"The voters of California have twice said they want the ability to vote for the candidates of their choice, regardless of party affiliation in the primaries," said Jones. "I strongly encourage the political parties to revise their rules and seat presidential delegates from California based on the Open Primary results."
In the event that the political parties do not agree to revise their rules to seat the California delegation, Jones has proposed a potential solution that would allow election officials to provide results that show both the results of the Open Primary and the preference of each political party's membership.
"My first priority is to make sure that California voters will be empowered to pick our next president through the primary process in 2000," said Jones. "We need to maintain the integrity of the popular open primary system, but we must make sure the political parties do not turn California's primary into a beauty contest."
Jones will discuss the Rotating Regional Primary System and California's Open Presidential Primary at a public hearing of the Presidential Primary Committee of the National Association of Secretaries of State on Thursday, November 19, 1998 in Washington, D.C. Jones serves as Vice-Chair of the Committee.
Proposed Solution to the Presidential Delegate Selection Problems that Result from the Open Primary System
Problem: National political party rules prohibit the awarding of delegates to states that allow non-party members to participate in the candidate selection process. Without some change, California runs the serious risk of relegating our new early presidential primary to "beauty contest" status.
Proposal: Revise the county reporting requirements for presidential primaries to tabulate both the Open Primary results and the votes cast by members of each political party.
Under this proposal, separate ballot types will be provided based on the party affiliation (or non-affiliation) of the voter -- similar to the way party central committee ballots are now counted under the Open Primary.
The Secretary of State would then report both the "Open Primary" results and the "Partisan Preference" results. Although the state would forward the results of the Open Primary to the national parties, the parties, under their own rules, would have the option of recognizing delegates selected by either the "Open" primary or the "Partisan" results.
Voters would still have the option of casting their ballot for a presidential candidate regardless of party affiliation, but the cross-over votes might not be recognized by the political parties.
* It appears the counties can re-program their software to tabulate results in this manner, but there will be a cost, which would need to be borne by the state.
* The proposal can be accomplished legislatively because it does not amend any of the provisions of Proposition 198. But, the counties need as much time as possible to prepare their election systems for the revised reporting requirements.
* Counties that use multiple ballot cards may need to revise the order in which offices appear on the ballot to ensure that candidates for president and central committee appear on the same card.
PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY PROPOSAL
TO: Secretaries of State
FROM: Bill Jones (CA)
DATE: July, 1998
SUBJECT: ROTATING REGIONAL PRIMARY
The concept we are putting forth has two parts. First, the establishment of a regional primary system. Second, rotating the regions so that each region has an opportunity to be first in the process of selecting presidential delegates.
It is also assumed that this system would be voluntary with the individual states, not mandated by the federal government (probably not possible to do legally anyway, since states have the power to set the time, place and manner of their elections).
A. ESTABLISHING REGIONAL PRIMARIES
1. The regional primary system begins with the presidential election in the year 2004.
2. States must enact legislation enabling participation in the rotating regional primary system no later than January 1, 2002. The lottery determining the order of the primary elections will be held after that date.
3. NASS will coordinate the establishment of regions and the lottery determining the order of the primaries:
a. No later than __________ NASS shall establish a Rotating Regional Primary Working Group.
b. No later than __________ the RRPW shall divide the United States into four Presidential Primary Regions.
c. No later than __________ any state may request to be assigned to a different region.
d. After January 1, 2004 NASS will conduct a lottery to determine the order in which the regions will have their presidential primaries in 2004.
e. Regional presidential primary dates shall be the first Tuesday in March, April, May, and June.
f. In presidential primary elections subsequent to 2004, the region which appeared first (March) in the preceding presidential primary shall be placed last (June), the order of the other regions remaining unchanged.
B. STATE ENABLING LEGISLATION
SECTION 1. ROTATING REGIONAL PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY
Notwithstanding any other provision of law to the contrary, (name of state) will participate in the Rotating Regional Primary system.
SECTION 2. DESIGNATION OF PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY REGION
(Name of state) is a member of Region _____, as defined by the National Association of Secretaries of State in their Resolution No. _____.
SECTION 3.DATE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY ELECTION
The date of the presidential primary election shall be the date established for Region _____. For the presidential primary election in the year 2004 this date shall be the first Tuesday in either March, April, May, or June, as determined by the lottery conducted by the National Association of Secretaries of State on (date).
SECTION 4. ROTATION OF THE DATE OF THE PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY
In presidential primary elections subsequent to the year 2004, the date of the election shall be the first Tuesday of the month preceding the month of the most recent presidential primary election, except that if
the most recent presidential primary election was conducted on the first Tuesday of March the date of the election shall be the first Tuesday of June.
SECTION 5. DEFINITION OF PRESIDENTIAL PRIMARY
"Presidential primary" is the primary election held in any year that is evenly divisible by the number four, and at which delegations to national party conventions are to be chosen.