Could We Have Primaries for Ballot Initiatives?


There's a big debate at this moment about a bill on Gov. Jerry Brown's desk that would remove all initiatives from next June's primary ballot and put them on November's general election ballot.

One argument is that initiatives should only be on general election ballots because they have higher turnouts

But an intriguing new proposal suggests a using primary and general election ballots for initiatives -- but in a very different way than we currently do.

In effect, the proposal suggests treating initiatives like candidates and political parties -- letting measures with the most support in the primary advance to a general election.

The proposal is from Timothy Vande Krol, a Cal Poly Pomona graduate and U.S. Navy veteran who is an unknown in the debate over governance in California.

He calls it Multiparty Direct Democracy.

It's a complicated proposal -- you can read the full details here -- but it addresses some of the major criticisms about ballot initiatives.

While keeping the current system of gathering signatures to qualify initiatives, Vande Krol also suggests opening a new avenue to the ballot. Support from parties.

Effectively, parties would be able to put lists of initiatives they prefer on a primary ballot.

Voters would be able to vote for the party list of initiatives they like best. Depending on the proportion of support each party received, a certain number of each party's initiative would advance to the general election ballot.

Why go to all the trouble?

A number of reasons. For one thing, allowing parties to put measures on the ballot would provide another avenue to the ballot that wouldn't require $3 million to pay paid petition circulators.

Citizens could convince parties to give their idea a shot.

For another, voters often don't know going to the ballot which party supports an initiative. So they have to guess if the initiative's goals align with theirs. Showing which party supports an initiatives gives voters crucial information they don't have now.

Best of all, it would help revive interest and participation in California's relatively weak political parties.

Promoting civic engagement and political participation is the preoccupation of many a think tank and foundation, but California's rules and political culture have made the best tool for engagement and participation -- parties, particularly local political parties -- very weak.

Giving them a role like this would create an incentive for more people to get involved -- and might push the parties to think more about policy, not just elections.

Let us know what you think. Comment below, send us your thoughts via Twitter @PropZero or add your comment to our Facebook page.

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