Independent Voter Project
California’s Nonpartisan Primary Improves Competition and Voter Confidence
With two election cycles under its belt, California’s nonpartisan primary system has shown positive results for electoral competition and voter confidence.
Studies show that changing the first stage of the election from a private party nomination process to a nonpartisan public process results in more competitive elections, produces a more productive legislature, and enhances overall satisfaction with representation.
California’s Proposition 14, which established a “Top-Two” nonpartisan primary starting in 2012, changed the way primary elections are conducted in the state. Under California’s old traditional system, the primary election served the private purpose of selecting candidates to represent each party on the general election ballot. In 2010, the last time the traditional system was utilized for statewide elections, the Democratic Party, at their own election, allowed unaffiliated voters to participate in their election process. The Republican Party did not.
Under the new nonpartisan system, all voters can vote for any candidate, regardless of their respective parties. The ‘top two’ vote-getters then proceed to the general election.
This article analyzes approval ratings of government, competitive election data, voter registration levels, and voter participation statistics to better understand the short-term effects that California’s nonpartisan, top-two primary has on voter satisfaction, governance, and electoral competition.