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In 2014, All Initiatives Should Be on June Ballot

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Opinion: Get All Initiatives on June '14 Ballot

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The legislation to move all ballot initiatives to the general election ballot -- pushed through by Gov. Jerry Brown and the Democrats was bad policy. It means that voters are digesting 11 measures right now on top of long lists of candidate elections, when it would be better if measures were voted upon two or three at a time in a separate election system.

But that legislation is the law, and if California is going to continue to have a rule putting all initiatives on the general election ballot, then it needs to make one big adjustment for 2014.

All the initiatives should be on the June ballot, not the November one.

Why? Because the real general election in California is now in June, not November.

This change in the general election was part of the establishment of the top-two primary, but few have remarked on this reality because of all the confusion about the top two.

The top two is called a "primary," but in fact it eliminated primaries in the state. Instead, under top two, all candidates of all parties are thrown together onto the ballot in the first round of our elections. This first round, thus, is the real general election -- the time when voters have the most choice and can vote among members of any party.

One of the failures of the backers of the top two has been their failure to explain this reality. The Secretary of State and other elections officials also have failed to step forward and make clear to people that the first round is the real general election. The second round, which is mistakenly being described as the general election, is merely a run-off between the top two finishers in the first-round general election.

So if you want the most diverse array of voters for initiatives -- the rationale given by the Democrats who pushed this change -- then you have to put all initiatives on the June 2014 ballot.

State lawmakers should make this clarification as soon as possible, since potential initiative sponsors need to start making preparations for 2014 now.

Lead Prop Zero blogger Joe Mathews is California editor at Zocalo Public Square, a fellow at Arizona State University’s Center for Social Cohesion, and co-author of California Crackup: How Reform Broke the Golden State and How We Can Fix It (University of California, 2010).

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