Volume 44 Number 11

The problem with open primaries


OPINION California voters will see a ballot measure in June 2010 seeking approval for a "Top-two Open Primary" system. The measure would make it far more difficult for Californians to vote for any candidates other than incumbents and their best-funded challengers. It would also make it even easier for incumbents to get reelected.

Under the measure, all candidates for Congress and state office would run on a single primary ballot in June. Only the top two vote-getters would appear on the November ballot.

This system has been used in two other states, Louisiana and Washington. Louisiana used it for Congressional elections between 1978 and 2006. In all those years, only one incumbent was ever defeated for reelection (except that in 1992, two incumbents lost because they had to run against other incumbents, due to redistricting). Even Rep. William Jefferson (D-La.) was reelected under the top-two system in 2006, although the FBI had raided his Congressional office in May 2006 after $75,000 in bribe money had been found in his freezer.

But when Louisiana switched its Congressional elections to a system in which every qualified party had its own nominee, Jefferson was defeated by Joseph Cao, a Republican. That only happened because a vigorous Green Party nominee, Malik Rahim, polled 3 percent, "spoiling" Jefferson’s chances. Democrats will probably reclaim the seat in 2010 with a better nominee.

During the years Louisiana used top-two, no minor party ever placed first or second in the first round, except once in 2006, and then only because the minor party candidate was the incumbent’s only opposition. Thus, in all the more than 30 years Louisiana used the system, minor party candidates were nearly always missing from the final round.

Washington used top-two once, in 2008. Out of eight U.S. House seats, 8 statewide state races, and 123 legislative races, only one incumbent was defeated in the primary.

The only real change in Washington in 2008 was the elimination of minor party and independent candidates from the November election. For the first time since Washington has been a state, no minor party or independent candidate was on the November ballot for Congress or a statewide state race.

When minor party or independent candidates are kept off the November ballot, they can’t campaign in the summer and fall campaign season. The California proposal even eliminates write-ins in November.

And if the measure wasn’t harmful enough to minor parties, it also changes the rules for how a party retains its state recognition; parties would need approximately 100,000 registered members to survive. Currently the Peace and Freedom Party only has 58,000, so it would lose its place on the ballot. That’s ironic, since in 2008 Peace and Freedom had its best showing for president ever in California — 108,831 votes for Ralph Nader.

The real impetus behind the top-two open primary measure comes from Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger, who has been pushing this idea since 2004.

Schwarzenegger has shown repeatedly that he doesn’t care about political minorities and voting rights. Twice he vetoed bills that would have made it easier for voters to have their write-in votes count. Twice he vetoed the bill for a compact among the states that would have guaranteed (if enough states passed the idea) that the person who got the most popular votes would win the presidency. He even vetoed a bill to delete some obsolete laws, declared unconstitutional in 1967 by the State Supreme Court, that barred members of the Communist Party from working in public school districts.

Now he wants an undemocratic primary system. The voters should reject it.

Richard Winger is the editor of Ballot Access News.





SF Carbon Collaborative

Attend this panel discussion on justice, equity, and sufficiency in climate negotiations and the role these values play in national and local climate action. Speakers include Jonah Sachs, cofounder of Free Range Studios and Linda Maepa, from Electron Vault Now.

6 p.m., free

Crocker Galleria

Green Zebra storefront

50 Post, SF



City College meeting

Attend this monthly business meeting of City College of San Francisco’s Board of Trustees. A video of the meeting will also be telecast on EaTV Cable Channel 27 at 8:30 p.m. Dec. 23.

6 p.m., free


City College

33 Gough Campus, SF


Stop the violence

Take part in the International Day to End Violence Against Sex Workers by attending this memorial vigil ritual at Femina Potens Art Gallery, a space dedicated to LGBT visual arts exhibitions, media arts events, public arts projects, performances, and educational programs.

7 p.m., free

Femina Potens Art Gallery

2199 Market, SF

(415) 864-1558

Protest BART’s police chief

Protest at a forum being held by BART to hear the community’s thoughts and opinions on choosing a new BART police chief. Don’t let Chief Gary Gee walk away from his job with no accountability for the Jan. 1 murder of Oscar Grant by a BART police officer.

6 p.m., free

Joseph P. Bort MetroCenter Auditorium

101 Eighth St., Oakl.


Traditional Seeds

Join in the dialogue about the value of traditional crop varieties and ecological agriculture in an increasingly unstable world climate at this talk featuring Debal Deb, ecologist and founding director of the Center for Interdisciplinary Studies in West Bengal, India.

7p.m.; free, donations for Dr. Deb’s initiatives accepted

Ecology Center

2530 San Pablo, Berk.

(510) 548-4915

Wine for a cause

Attend this wine tasting event titled "Drink Good Wine, Do Good Works" featuring wines that support access to healthcare for California vineyard workers. Donate canned goods to SF Food Bank for $5 off admission.

6 p.m., $15


2184 Union, SF

(650) 796-1607


Say no to war

Rally to demand that we bring our troops home now.

2 p.m., free

Acton and University, Berk.

(510) 841-4143

Women in Black vigil

Protest the ongoing occupation of Palestine and attacks on Gazans by attending this vigil for Tristan Anderson, who was critically injured by Israeli forces, and by contacting the Consul General David Akov at the Israeli Consulate to demand an end to the violence at concal.sec@sanfrancisco.mfa.gov.il.

Noon, free

Bancroft and Telegraph, Berk.

(510) 548-6310


Single-payer now

Attend this healthcare forum and holiday potluck featuring presentations by Assembly Member Tom Ammiano, principal author of SB 810 California Universal Healthcare Act, and Rep. Eric Massa (D-N.Y.), one of two cosponsors of HR 676 . Single-payer legislation has been passed twice by the California legislature but was vetoed by Gov. Schwarzenegger.

3 p.m., free

St. Mary’s Cathedral

1111 Gough, SF

(415) 695-7891

Mail items for Alerts to the Guardian Building, 135 Mississippi St., SF, CA 94107; fax to (415) 255-8762; or e-mail alerts@sfbg.com. Please include a contact telephone number. Items must be received at least one week prior to the publication date.

Psychic Dream Astrology



March 21-April 19

This is a great time to make things happen. The only catch is to stay present when you do your thing. Execute your plans with gentleness, so your actions are easy for others to receive. By enlisting support from others, the strength of your enterprise will grow. Nurture your connections while you work toward your goals.


April 20-May 20

Invest in the power of positive thinking. Get clear about the details as well as the big picture of your desires. Be careful not to over analyze. Just discern what you need, what you want, and where your obstacles are.


May 21-June 21

Taking responsibility for yourself and getting it together is all good, Gem. Getting uptight about things is a whole other matter. Don’t swing from one extreme to another as you motivate to TCB. Close out the year with a solid work ethic, even if your "work" is simply getting along with your family.


June 22-July 22

Location, location, location. Put yourself in the right place this week, because your surroundings will mean the difference between you being a saggy heart sack or a shiny lucky penny. You are struggling with feeling out of control, and you need all the warmth and support you can get. The better you feel, the more options you’ll see.


July 23-Aug. 22

Your independence is the key to being happy in love. It may sound paradoxical since so many of us merge our identities with the people, things, or –isms we hold dear. But that can be a real mistake. The stronger and more awesome you are on your own, the more you will have to offer. Connect, but don’t meld.


Aug. 23-Sept. 22

Take good care of yourself, Virgo. Combat anxiety and uncertainty by clearing out the old and making room for whatever comes next. Don’t let not knowing what to prepare for stop you. The golden ticket is getting grounded. Clean up your bedroom, pay your bills, and eat a warm meal so you are ready to handle your affairs.


Sept. 23-Oct. 22

There is a time for everything, but this week is not the time for divining the meaning of every knot on each tree in the forest. You will be a much happier camper if you take note of the basics, like: are they fruit- bearing trees? Any maple in those suckers? Just the useful stuff, Libra. Then you can focus on the big picture.


Oct. 23-Nov. 21

You need major changes that you alone can craft, like quitting splurging on your credit cards, or not cyber-stalking your latest crush. Changing how you behave demands that you change your thinking about those actions and how you motivate yourself. You will succeed in your alterations if you make them now, so get to it.


Nov. 22-Dec. 21

Feeling overwhelmed makes it hard to check in with your gut instincts, but that’s exactly what you should be doing. Instead of adding to your plate, take some time to check in with what feels right. You run the risk of careening toward the first available thing, instead of the best one. Rethink things now so you don’t have to go back and fix them later.


Dec. 22-Jan. 19

There is no point in resisting the need for change, Champ. Think of it this way: you have toiled long and hard and have finally come to the plateau of a big old mountain. It’s a great accomplishment! Only problem is, what you thought was as high as you can go is just the tip of the iceberg. Decide whether you’re ready to scale the next peak.


Jan. 20-Feb. 18

If you can figure out a game plan and stick to it, you can have exactly what you want. It’s time to get organized and stop worrying about how what you do will affect others. If you act with integrity, that shouldn’t be a problem. Channel your creativity into what you want most.


Feb. 19-March 20

Don’t allow negative expectations to drag you down. It’s time for you to break up with the voices in your head that are doom and gloom. Start pitching woo with the voices that believe in your success and are willing to go out on a limb to make it happen. Have your break-up sex with the gloom and doom — then move on.

Jessica Lanyadoo has been a psychic dreamer for 15 years. Check out her Web site at www.lovelanyadoo.com or contact her for an astrology or intuitive reading at (415) 336-8354 or dreamyastrology@gmail.com.