Cahn Chapter 12
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Primaries were pushed by Progressive reformers early in the twentieth century to give average people a voice in teh nomination of candidates. It was thought that allowing citizens to register their preferences at the polls would reduce the power of party bosses and special interests to wield undue influence at state party nominating conventions. Allowing the voters to choose candidates in a direct primary has become the only legitimate method for the two major parties to decide their candidates for general election in California. The legislature moved the primary date from the end of the nomination season to March, making it one of the earliest in the nation.
Direct Primary Election
The second experiment created by voters in 1996 with the passage of Proposition 198. In most states that have open primaries, voters decide which party's ballot to cast in the privacy of the voting booth. California's version was modeled after similar systems in Washington and Alaska, where every voter is issued an identical ballot at the polling place on election day. The ballot allowed voters to choose among any of the candidates of every officially recognized party, regardless of the voter's own party affiliation. Under the old system, a voter was issued a ballot only for the party with which he or she had registered.
The best-known special election was the recall of Governor Gray Davis. Davis began 2003 fresh from his narrow reelection victory against Republican Bill Simon, but the state was facing a host of fresh problems. Davis had accomplishments in his first term, but blamed the energy crisis on Enron and the Bush administration.
Recall Election, 2003
Governor of California who was recalled in 2003.
Governor in 2005 who called for a special statewide vote on a proposal to change the way redistricting is conducted. He backed Proposition 77, a ballot initiative intended to accomplish the reform he wanted, and campaigned heavily for the measure, along with three other initiatives limiting state spending on public schools, reforming teacher tenure, and restricting the political uses of public employee union dues.
The special elections of 2003 and 2005 illustrate the growing importance of the tools of direct democracy in California. Not surprisingly, the entire industry has emerged to do the work of promoting ballot initiatives. Hundreds of initiatives have qualified since 1912.
Ballot Initiative Industry
The largest ideological category in the electorate (44 percent) was "moderate." A clear majority of these self-identified moderates supported Schwarzenegger over his Democratic opponent, Phil Angelides. The size and impact of these self-identified moderates may reflect a growing frustration with partisan politics. Nonetheless, California's electorate is growing ever more reluctant to identify with either of the two major political parties.
"Moderate" Independent Voters
Because of California's (1) weak political parties, (2) system of directly deciding policy through the ballot initiative, and (3) overwhelming numerical significance in presidential elections, the state's voters have considerable power and relevance in comparison to voters in other states. Yet when compared to the national average, California's turnout is quite low. Because of this low turnout, electoral outcomes are often determined by the success a particular campaign has in getting out the vote.
Generally, the socially and economically disadvantaged are less likely to participate in the political process. Hence, these groups are less likely to make their voices heard at the ballot box. When controlling these differences, the gap in voting disappears.
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