Welcome to the New California -- Politically Speaking | KCET
Welcome to the New California -- Politically Speaking
First, Californians recently approved redistricting by an independent redistricting commission. That, for the first time in the state's history, gave an independent (or bipartisan, or better yet: multi-partisan) group of citizens the power to draw our state's district lines -- now gone are the days of legislators drawing district lines to ensure their safe re-election.
Second, in 2010 Californians approved open primary, top-two elections. That means any voter now can vote for any candidate in the primary election, regardless of party affiliation. In the general election (which is really more like a run-off election) the top-two vote-getters competed (one good example: two congressional Republican candidates faced off in a traditionally blue district of San Bernardino County. Learn more here).
Shortly after the election the Public Policy Institute of California crunched the numbers and published a report which sheds some light on the effect of those electoral reforms.
One prediction came true: On the average, elections were more competitive. Those making this prediction (myself included) hardly went out on a limb. In 2001, California legislators drew district lines, in large part, to ensure their safe re-election. Once an independent redistricting commission took over and ignored incumbency protection concerns and instead drew lines to do things like maintain communities of interest, it a virtual sure thing that at least some races would become more competitive.
Similarly, under our old system, because of registration numbers, the winner of a primary election was all but assured success in the general election. Put another way, there were a good number of districts, which were either so heavily Democratic or Republican, that the majority party's primary winner did not need to wage much of a battle in the general election. The top-two election changed that, and we saw competitive races between members of the same party in a number of districts.
We may want to promote more competition in our elections for a number of reasons, but with increased competition comes increased cost. Anyone who lives in a competitive district no doubt heard their share of radio advertisements and received a plethora of campaign mailers. Those campaign advertisements, and others, cost money. Candidates in California will be increasingly dependent on large donors and spenders for the foreseeable future.