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Californians weigh primary reform

From NBC's Alexander Rosen
California voters will have the chance today to decide on a measure that could drastically overhaul the way that candidates are elected in both state and congressional elections.

If passed, Proposition 14 would eliminate party primaries in favor of one free-for-all primary. The top-two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, would then face off in a general election. This resembles the system currently used in Washington state.

Proponents of the measure argue that it will make elections fairer for voters and would reduce partisanship by eliminating what can be polarizing primaries, in which candidates are forced to play to an activist base.

"Proposition 14 will return power to voters by allowing open access in party elections, regardless of party affiliation, or unafffiliation," said Amanda Fulkerson, communications director for Californians for an Open Primary, a group campaigning for Prop 14. The group’s Web site YesOn14OpenPrimary.com contends that the measure will give independent and third-party voters more power in future elections.

But opponents disagree.

"Proposition 14 is like a Trojan Horse that needs to be stopped," said Christina Tobin, a Libertarian candidate for California Secretary of State and chairwoman of StopTopTwo.org, an anti-Prop 14 Web site.

The group is upset because "only two candidates will appear on the November ballot, even two candidates from the same party, and write-in candidates will no longer be allowed," it writes on the site, adding, "Currently in the November election each party’s candidates competes against each other along with any independents, giving voters more than two choices along with the write-in option."

It could, however, be an uphill battle for Tobin and opponents. A May Public Policy Institute of California poll showed a majority of voters intended to vote for the measure -- 60% said they were for it; 27% said they were against; with an additional 13% undecided.