May 26, 2010, midnight
California voters will decide on June 8 whether their state should abandon partisan primary elections for a "top-two" system. Under the new rules, all candidates would contest a first round, and the top two vote-getters would face off in the general election. The referendum is the result of a bi-partisan deal between California's Democratic state legislature and Republicans in the executive branch. Proponents argue that, by permitting contests between popular members of the same party in high-turnout general elections, the reform might reduce legislative polarization. The current system, some argue, has permitted more ideological Democrats and Republicans to dominate low-turnout primaries. Because many jurisdictions lean strongly in favor of one party, moreover, supporters claim the current primary system sidelines general-election voters, who ratify a predetermined result. Detractors of the measure say that two-round systems actually empower extremist candidates when their opponents split each other's support. They cite 1991 and 2002 elections in Louisiana and France, respectively, both of which saw unpopular, racially charged candidates advance to the second rounds of voting. Other opponents of "top-two" say the referendum is a distraction, allowing voters to express unfocused discontent with the state's politics.