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Voters face election-reform measures
June 03, 2010, 02:17 AM By Bill Silverfarb Daily Journal staff

The state Legislature has put two election-reform measures on the June ballot aimed at increasing participation in primary elections and ending the influence of special interest groups that make excessive contributions to candidates.

Proposition 14 would allow voters to choose any candidate regardless of the candidate’s or voter’s political preference in primary elections.

Proposition 15 would repeal the ban on public funding for political campaigns and charge lobbyists higher fees to fund elections.

Proposition 14 would give candidates the option not to have a political party preference indicated on the primary ballot, meaning a Democrat or Republican or any other party member could not reveal their party affiliation during the primary.

Opponents of Proposition 14 say the measure would ultimately reduce choice, put third parties at risk of elimination and is an attempt to deceive voters.

"Since candidates won’t have to indicate party affiliation, voters will not know who they are voting for. It is a manipulation of the process,” said Joshua Golka, spokesman for the California School Employee’s Association.

Proposition 14 creates a single ballot for primary elections with the top-two vote getters facing off in the general election regardless of their party affiliation.

Supporters of the measure insist it will give independent voters an equal voice in primary elections and will help elect more practical lawmakers who are more open to compromise. The AARP, California Alliance for Jobs and the California Chamber of Commerce support the measure. The groups argue that partisanship is running the state into the ground and that Proposition 14 will push elected officials to begin working together for the common good.

State Sen. Joe Simitian, D-Palo Alto, supports the measure although he calls it a mixed bag.

"My concern is that it could raise the cost for running a campaign two or three times,” Simitian said. "I do think it will produce candidates more inclined to work together. Despite its drawbacks, it is still worth a try.”

State Sen. Leland Yee, D-San Francisco/San Mateo, however, does not support Proposition 14.

"My fear is that everyone will start to sound like moderates when campaigning,” Yee said. "There are certain values associated with political affiliation and voters have a right to know who a candidate is lined up with.”

Proposition 15, the California Fair Elections Act, creates a voluntary system for candidates to qualify for a public campaign grant if they agree to limitations on spending and private contributions.

Proposition 15 would authorize public financing of one statewide race, secretary of state, and only for two election cycles, 2014 and 2018. Registered lobbyists would pay most of the financing bill with a $350-per-year fee. If the two campaigns play out well, the Legislature could expand public financing into other races, supporters of the measure say.

The measure is limited to the secretary of state because the office is responsible for overseeing and regulating the state’s lobbying activity and the integrity of elections.

"No politician should be in the fundraising game,” said Trent Lange, California Fair Elections Act chair. "This measure takes away lobbyists’ power and makes candidates more beholden to the voters.”

Opponents of the measure, however, contend Proposition 15 will allow legislators to use tax money for any campaign they wish, including their own. Taxpayer money, foes said, could be used to spread negative ads and junk mail. The measure will also allow candidates to continue to raise money from special interest groups, foes said.

Proposition 15 supporters include Yee, U.S. Rep. Jackie Speier, D-San Mateo and state assemblymembers Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, Fiona Ma, D-San Francisco, and Ira Ruskin, D-Redwood City.

Simitian also supports the measure, although, he said a bundle of reforms are needed to change the state’s election process.

Bill Silverfarb can be reached by e-mail: or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 106.

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